When you have the option to stretch out on a flat bed on a long haul flight after sipping champagne, eating yummy food and watching new release movies it may seem a little precious to care about which flat bed you’re in.
Upon discovering I would be flying British Airways’ Club World from Sydney to London I was so happy to know I’d be in BA’s version of Business Class on one of their 777-300ERs that it didn’t even occur to me to request a certain seat.
It was only when I caught up with my flight guru Mark and he insisted I should try for an aisle or window that I realised regular Club World fliers can be quite particular about where they end up.
British Airways Club World has an unusual seat layout, but it’s one that people who have been lucky enough to fly in that end of the plane know very well.
Back in 2000 British Airways shook up the whole business class game by introducing the first fully flat beds. Yes, these pieces of heaven in the sky have only been around since the turn of the century, after BA challenged design consultancy Tangerine to “find us the holy grail of airline travel sprinkled with a bit of pixie-dust – and astound us along the way.”
The result was the patented Yin-Yang configuration where seats are laid out in a 2-4-2 pattern with aisles facing forward and windows and middle seats facing backwards.
As Mark explained to me, I’d be best off trying to get an aisle seat facing forward, or possibly a window seat, as when you’re in the middle seats you have to step over someone else’s flatbed to get out. Something you also do from the window, but in the middle you miss out on the privacy provided by a window seat.
When it came time to do online check in I found all of those regular fliers had grabbed their popular aisle seats when they booked their tickets, and that I was bound for a middle seat.
I wasn’t particularly concerned by that news, but when I checked in at Sydney airport I asked if it was possible to change, just in case. It turned out the Sydney to Changi leg wasn’t too busy, but the Singapore to London section was fully booked.
This is when I also remembered that BA usually sits people in the same seat for both legs of the journey and only give out one boarding pass (something to be aware of if you’re the type to put your boarding pass in the seat pocket – you’ll be needing that same slip of paper to get back on the plane.)
The nice lady at check in told me they’d see what they could do about a possible change for the first sector and made a note of my request, and when it came time to board I found I was in an aisle seat for that first leg before taking my original seat in the middle for the longer Singapore to London leg.
I usually try to get an aisle seat regardless of how I’m flying so I was happy with the freedom to move around, and in a happy place in the seat itself, especially knowing that when the time was right it could be converted it into a fully flat 6′ bed.
I was also impressed by the service, and the food that was making its way down the aisle. There was really no need to go to the Club Kitchen area during the flight and help myself to their snacks, but with packets of caramel popcorn beckoning I couldn’t resist that one.
After a short stop in Changi and a quick glass of bubbles in the lounge, it was time to board again and take my middle seat. And as soon as I sat down, I realised I was soon going to be sleeping next to a stranger.
Now of course I do that all the time in economy, and it’s never bothered me when we’re pretty much sitting upright and snoozing away. But the flatbed concept adds a certain level of familiarity.
Somehow being in my pyjamas and lying down next to someone I just met to go to sleep felt a little intimate. Especially as the privacy screens between the middle seats and the aisles create a cosy little nook for two. Perfect if you’re travelling with a friend or lover, but a stranger?
As I started to worry who I’d be sat next to I asked one of the cabin crew if there was a chance to switch to an aisle. There was none, leaving us to joke about how lovely it would be to have a handsome stranger sit next to me.
I wish we’d also joked about how great it would be for me to land in London and find out I’d won the lottery, because it turned out our first joke came true.
A tall dark and handsome stranger did take the seat, and while other people put up their dividing screens between the middle seats, he made no move to do so and so neither did I.
Before you get too excited, romance did not blossom on the flight, but I’m more than fine with that as I do believe life has other plans for me on that front. And yes, it still felt a little odd waking up to find myself lying next to a lovely looking stranger. But it’s far from the worst thing that’s happened to me on a plane, so I’d be on board for that again.
That said, on the return flight from London I was faster with grabbing my seat allocation and nabbed an aisle for one leg, and then thought I’d try the last option of window for another leg just so I could compare them all.
In the end I really liked the window for a sleepy leg. You have a lot of privacy and it’s like flying in a private little cocoon, so I was straight into my PJs and had a wonderful sleep most of the way from London to Changi. I even slept through the meals and champagne. The horror.
Now I should also point out a little note on airline pyjamas. British Airways provides sleep suits to passengers in First Class but not in Club World. I however take my own on every long haul flight, which is how I ended up in sleepwear.
Of course, with new planes coming in, British Airways is looking into new layouts in Club World. The airline is yet to announce what will happen to Yin-Yang when they introduce their A350s in 2017, and when they brought in the Boeing Dreamliner in 2013, Tangerine came up with a new 2-3-2, known as Yin-Yang-Yin for business class on the 787 and A380s.
I’ve yet to experience the Yin-Yang-Yin but when I’m lucky enough to fly Yin-Yang again I’m going to be grabbing those aisle and window seats.
That is, unless I’m flying with someone special then you’ll find me happily ensconced in the middle seats together. Now that would be a nice champagne moment.
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