Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Imagine having once been the King of England and now you’re treated like a tawdry reality show contestant.
That’s how it must feel on some days if you’re British Airways.
Somehow, Brits and their national airline have fallen out to the degree that certain natives decry the airline as nothing more than another budget carrier.
A survey last year showed that the airline’s brand perception for quality and value had plummeted more than that of, oh, United Airlines.
And then there’s the airline’s Business Class — known on long-haul flights as Club World — which some have decried as painfully inadequate.
Why, the airline charges you to book a seat if you don’t have what they call status.
And then there’s the little detail of there being 8 seats across the class.
Even the airline’s own CEO, Alex Cruz, isn’t enamored.
As Head For Points recently reported, Cruz spoke at a UK Israel business event and said that British Airways was the first airline to enjoy lie-flat seating.
“But the bad news is that we still have it,” he said.
Cruz did say that the airline is planning major improvements, but in the flying business improvements take a lot of time.
So on a recent flight from London to San Francisco, when my wife and I were upgraded to Club World, I was fascinated as to what level of aging detritus I might find.
I confess that I’ve rarely had terrible problems with BA, save when I encountered one of its bag-check machines, which should all be melted down and turned into devil-head doorknobs.
It’s true, though, that the Club World cabin design still requires you to skip over someone else’s feet to get out of your seat and into the aisle. Which is, well, not exactly classy.
Look, I don’t have great expectations of airline food. Not even if I find myself in an advanced cabin, which is very rare.
I understand that there are limitations.
So what I was served on this particular flight rather stuck with me.
First, there was a more than passable orange and dill cured salmon gravlax, with charred grapefruit, sesame cream cheese, fennel and coriander.
Next was Braised British beef, with Madeira jus, bacon, spinach, pea and potato au gratin.
The one thing I always expect with meat on a plane is that it will be dry.
Somehow, this wasn’t. It was, in fact, as good an entrée as I’ve had on a plane for some years.
And it wasn’t even the best thing I had in this meal.
Please welcome — because I did — the warm chocolate, butterscotch and almond sponge pudding with crème anglaise.
It does sound frightfully British, doesn’t it? (Save for the Frankification of crème anglaise.)
I confess that the first mouthful offered something akin to perfection.
I further confess that, when I’d finished it, I reached over to my wife’s side and began to eat hers.
The warm chocolate, butterscotch and almond sponge pudding with crème anglaise is, I conclude, a dessert that can lower your standards of decorum. But with the best of intentions.
I would have happily enjoyed that dessert in any restaurant at any time. Well, except perhaps for breakfast.
It was simply the best dessert I’ve ever eaten on a plane.
I admit that I’ll never get used to BA’s configuration of people facing each other with a dividing screen that you can, most of the time at least, roll up and down.
This is imperfect not merely because you’re forced to look at someone in the corner of your eye, someone whom your eye may not find pleasing.
On this flight, the woman to my left, when the screen was down, happened to belch in my direction.
Not that this was a first for me, but still.
I contacted British Airways to ask specifically about the food. “We have been making an investment in our catering, for both Club World and our World Traveller cabins,” a spokeswoman told me.
I eat out quite a bit.
A couple of nights ago, I was dragged to a business meeting at a fancy San Francisco restaurant. There, I endured startlingly taste-free, allegedly Michelin-starred food, with hideously expensive wine that had all the positive qualities of 1920’s Russia.
In contrast, this British Airways meal was such a pleasant surprise.
So much so that I slipped the flat-bed down and slept. For the next five hours.
Yes, the wine was really quite good too.