Before stepping onto a British Airways flight from Sydney to London recently, I was expecting the standard business class lay-out you see on all planes.
Space aplenty, forward-facing, fully-reclined seats, some elevated chair fabric. It’s a roughly similar experience across the board.
If, like me, you’re used to flying in seat 64J, you’re honestly just really happy to be there. (Aviation experts, don’t come at me with the technicalities: I am but a basic passenger).
So when my travel partner and I meandered up the aisle to our spots on a BA long-haul, we were taken aback to notice that one of us would be flying … backwards.
Until that point, I didn’t even know that configuration existed.
A quick Google search in the minutes before we were required to switch our phones to flight mode told us that it’s not a common feature, and that it’s relatively new. Only a handful of airlines offer it, British Airways clearly included.
Given that I’m prone to travel sickness when I so much as glance at a moving vehicle or vessel – this caused some preliminary nerves.
(My next desperate Google search: “Can you throw up from flying backwards?”)
But not only was travel sickness not even remotely a factor across the lengthy flight: I’m now a fully-fledged rear-facing plane seat convert. Especially when travelling with a colleague, partner or friend – it is absolutely the way to go.
Since air travel began, forward-facing seats have been the norm – so for most passengers, it’s all we’re used to seeing.
Now I’d actively seek it out.
If the stranger sitting next to me tries to talk to me on a flight, I usually pretend I don’t hear them (there is no natural way to end a conversation when you’re in a shared space with no phone reception to fake a call).
But travelling with a friend meant discussion was on the table.
The way we were configured meant that with the dividing partition down during mealtimes and mini-meetings, we were able to comfortably chat without anyone awkwardly twisting to the side or having to bend forward.
It really boosts the experience, giving you one of the major benefits of first class – a more communal space with your travel buddy – without the much heftier price tag.
And never fear: when the seat divider screen is up, it’s just as private as any business class offering.
Just over 24 hours of flying and amid a full crew swap in Singapore, it must be said that every single interaction with BA staff was among the most pleasant and friendly I’ve ever had in the skies.
Customer service, especially when travelling, can really make or break your journey – so having such friendly flight attendants on hand for the entirety of the long-haul trip was an absolute delight.
(Given the fact that most of them were British and it was just days ahead of the coronation, there was even an extra buzz of excitement as they chatted away with passengers about their plans for the big day.)
While the seat plan was an unexpected highlight, nudging ahead to be the standout factor of the flight, British Airways really excels with its quality service.
Between watching the Harry Potter films back-to-back (there are multiple franchises to choose from amid the broad-ranging movie selection), I’d enjoy warm chats with the flight attendants.
One staffer presented me with a glass of bubbly, and, shock horror, I turned it down, explaining it can worsen my nerves as an anxious flyer.
He offered to have the pilot come and chat to me to ease any tension.
Perhaps it’s because there’s food on tap, or the only thing you’re capable of focusing on without Wi-Fi is your next meal, but the munchies hit harder when you’re airborne.
So, as any meal aficionado could appreciate, it’s a pleasant encounter when staff approach you shortly after takeoff to discuss what you’d like to order for dinner.
Starter options ranged from smoked salmon with truffled remoulade, roasted fennel and barley salad (my choice, no regrets) or sweet potato soup.
For mains, the braised Welsh leg of lamb was impossible to overlook, but there’s an equally appealing vegetarian option for those with dietary requirements: Mushroom paccheri.
And, of course, the cherry on top of which there’s always room for: Dessert.
It was stiff competition between the apricot souffle and the banana chocolate mousse, of which I chose the latter, but for the healthier inclined, you can choose fresh fruit or a trio of cheeses with crackers and fig chutney.
This is where the unusual seating plan converts its potential critics. My travel partner and I rolled down the privacy screen to enjoy our supper face-to-face, freely discussing business and pleasure without suffering from stiff necks.
As previously suggested, thoughts of one’s next meal are never too far from mind. The staff are well ahead of you on that front.
“Would you like to be woken for breakfast, Miss?”
The answer is a firm yes. Shake me, if necessary.
After a fully-reclined, uninterrupted nine-hour slumber, it felt as though only minutes had passed since my last bite and now, breakfast was being served.
A yoghurt and fruit appetiser, washed down with fresh orange juice, was followed by the creamy porridge with berries.
While I went for the nostalgia-staple, most passengers opt for the crowning jewel of the brekky menu, and a fitting taster ahead of touching down in London: The Original Full British with scrambled eggs, pork sausage, bacon, mushrooms and grilled tomato.
The pinnacle, though, was the bakery selection, of which I stockpiled several croissants to comfort me into the impending descent.
For those who fancy a mid-flight tipple, there are a sprinkling of red and white wine drops from the US, to Portugal, but what’s more frivolous is the array of cocktails to kick the holiday vibes off earlier than expected.
This writer was upgraded by British Airways for her flight from Sydney to London.