The trouble with flying Business Class is that once you know what lies in front of the curtain that divides the privileged from the cattle, you never want to be on the wrong side of it again. Pleasures such as real cutlery, alcohol with bubbles and large seats which fully recline - o my! - lie in wait for the lucky. For me, however, this is not even the main attraction - it's everything that happens before you even board that makes business travel not just a means from getting to A to B but an enjoyable experience in itself.
During my mission to visit 40 countries before I'm 30 I've taken hundreds of flights but have only enjoyed the luxury of flying Business Class on 5 occasions - they are 5 flights I shall never forget. My first experience was on a Jet Airways flight to Mumbai, India. The jammy bit is that I had won these flights in a competition on twitter (the best 140 characters I ever spent) and upon arriving at the airport discovered that the busy plane meant me and my companion (did I mention I won 2 return flights?) were bumped to Business Class. Through a swift check in and a priority security channel, we soon found ourselves in a Heathrow lounge sipping champagne and composing annoying facebook updates such as:
"OMG we're flying Business Class on a free flight to India!!!"
On the flight, having gorged in the lounge I couldn't possibly eat any of the meals, so opted for a Häagen-Dazs ice cream to accompany the film I watched on my larger-than-average in-flight entertainment system instead. As I popped to the bathroom to change into the sleep suit provided, the attendant converted my seat into a flat bed and laid out my pillow and duvet. I slept soundlessly for the remainder of the flight, not even noticing the landing into Mumbai airport. Exiting the building to find our driver in the chaos that is India was a stark and entertaining contrast to our journey to get there. We returned from India in cattle class, 24 hours later than planned as the standby status of our flights played to our disadvantage coming home. We sulked the whole way.
My second and third experiences of Business Class travel were on assignment with the late BMI to Beirut. Although the food and service on board were impeccable it was the experience before boarding which impressed me most. Their lounge at Heathrow Terminal 1, with different zones for different types of travellers, was one of my favourites, alongside the trendy No 1 Traveller Lounges with their complimentary hot dishes on demand.
But my ultimate Business Class travel experience was on a recent flight to Bermuda with British Airways. Unexpectedly and joyfully I found myself upgraded to Club Class when I arrived at the airport to check in. The BA lounge at Gatwick was a bit faded and having learnt my lesson with the Jet Airways experience I held back from indulging too heavily in the buffet. This turned out to be a wise move as on board I discovered they had steak on the plane! A splendid one it was too. Not only that but a few hours later they came round to serve us Afternoon Tea; warm scones, jam and clotted cream with a serving of tea in a suitable sized mug! The amenity kit contained Elemis products and the pillow and blankets were human sized; I looked better getting off the plane than I had getting on!
Reclining my seat to a fully flat position I felt a sense of sorrow for all the passengers in the cramped section behind. Then I realised on my next trip that would no doubt be me and I felt even sadder. For that is the trouble with Business Class travel, once you've had a taste of it, going back to Economy is bitterly hard!