I flew business class for 9 hours, and it made me wish I saved my money and bought an economy ticket

I flew for nine hours in business class from Texas to London. Sara Shah/Insider
  • I flew nine hours in business class on an overnight British Airways flight from Texas to London.
  • Although I’ve flown business class many times, this experience made me feel like it’s lost its charm and is no longer worth the price.
  • The food was subpar and the experience didn’t feel luxurious to me.
  • I appreciated that the airline had prepackaged meals and gave out disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, though I wish the meals were warm and I got more wipes.
  • Even though my destination did not require a negative COVID-19 test, I made sure to get one and I wish that the airline had required them.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After almost a year of nonstop globe-trotting, I took a six-month break from air travel. While grounded from international flying, I realised how much I missed the luxuries of business class.

When I flew again in late October, I felt myself looking forward to a little pampering during my nine-hour business-class flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to London Heathrow.

I chose an overnight flight with British Airways, hoping that the airline would be cautious in its approach to the ongoing pandemic.

But in the six months since I’d last taken an international flight, many things had changed and I ended up with less than I’d bargained for.

My disappointment started in an airport lounge

The boarding area had a few groups of people waiting. Sara Shah/Insider

One of my favourite parts of travelling in business class from Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport with a OneWorld partner like British Airways is being able to wait for my flight in the American Airlines Flagship Lounge.

The well-designed lounge is spacious and usually has a buffet of hot, delicious food but it was closed amid the ongoing pandemic.

Disappointed but still wanting to take advantage of my frequent-flyer status, I spent my preflight moments in the terminal’s American Airlines Admirals Club.

Boarding area
There were plenty of places to sit in the boarding area. Sara Shah/Insider

I found a comfy seat that was secluded from the crowd. Some people in the lounge were wearing masks, but many of them had removed their masks to nibble on snacks or have a drink.

I was a bit uncomfortable because it seemed like some travellers were nonchalant about wearing their masks

Boarding flight
A number of travellers were waiting for their flights. Sara Shah/Insider

Although at the time of my flight, the British Airways website says it may require proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test before boarding, no one had checked or asked for any proof that I had gotten one. When Insider reached out to British Airways, a spokesperson reaffirmed that the UK does not currently require evidence of a negative PCR coronavirus test and that flyers should always check the airline’s website for updated information related to their travel destination.

Notably, the UK does not currently require evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test for entry, though visitors may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Still, I wanted to be prepared with any paperwork I may be asked for since the rules and guidelines are constantly changing.

I’d paid $US250 for a rapid PCR test to get the results back to me within 48 hours and knew I did not pose a risk to other passengers. But I kept wondering if other travellers had taken the possible requirements as seriously as I had.

Requirements aside, it would have given me some peace of mind to have confirmation that everyone on board had recently tested negative for COVID-19.

Boarding flight
While in the boarding area, I kept my distance from others. Sara Shah/Insider

Unsure of which precautions fellow travellers had taken, I was happy I chose a pre-boarding seat that felt a bit secluded.

While I waited to board my flight, I watched the sunset and nibbled on a prepackaged snack of hummus and pita chips that I’d gotten from the lounge, which had no hot food available.

The lounge was the first miss of the trip, but my hopes were still high that once I boarded I’d be able to experience a bit of luxury

I was also looking forward to having a more substantial snack — if you’re paying to fly business class, you at least can hope for a decent meal.

I’d also called the airline earlier in the day to change my seat. The customer-service agent had said the flight was 70% empty so I was able to choose a solo window seat for a little extra privacy.

The boarding process was quick and seamless, and I made it into the cabin without any issues.

Inside the flight
Fortunately, my flight was quite empty. Sara Shah/Insider

That said, I remained disappointed and nervous that I still was not asked to present a negative COVID-19 test — I’d been expecting British Airways to handle the boarding checks a bit more strictly as my fellow travellers and I went from the US to the UK, especially as coronavirus cases are rising in both places.

Moments later, I was given a disappointing but thoughtful Personal Protector Pack

The pouch contained one disinfectant wipe and a small pouch of hand sanitizer. Though it was a nice gesture, I was still happy that I had brought my own disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.

Upon boarding, I received a special pack. Sara Shah/Insider

My personal cabin, a single seat by the window, had many little gadgets I wanted to wipe down, like the seat-reclining remote and small, sliding door I could shut.

Both of those handy features were helpful when I was trying to sleep, but they were yet another thing I wanted to disinfect upon boarding.

I wish I had received more wipes than this. Sara Shah/Insider

I quickly used the wipe in the disappointing pack to clean the tray tables, and then used my own stash to sanitize the screen and remote for my seat.

I wish the airline had handed out two or three of these throughout the flight, or at least created a pack with more wipes.

Flight nook
I didn’t use the nook because I felt like I should clean it first, and I didn’t want to. Sara Shah/Insider

I also had this seemingly unnecessary compartment (pictured above) with a handy mirror inside.

If we weren’t in a global pandemic, I probably would have felt more comfortable putting my things in here, but given the current circumstances, the nook just felt like another thing I wanted to wipe down.

Shortly into the flight, I noticed the airline’s switch to disposable products

My tea
I had some tea during my flight. Sara Shah/Insider

When the host came around to see if I wanted a beverage, I opted for a cup of peppermint tea to wind down for the overnight flight. He also brought me a package of nuts.

Porcelain dinnerware and silver cutlery are typical in business class, so I immediately noticed the switch to disposable products.

I understood that the switch was probably for practical reasons so that the staff doesn’t have to worry about disinfecting even more items, but I was starting to wonder what dinner service would look like.

Fortunately, the personal-amenities pack added a small sense of luxury to my trip

Flight bag
I received a small black bag of goodies for the flight. Sara Shah/Insider

After sipping my tea, I opened the personal-amenities pack that is typical on business-class flights. So far, this was the only thing that felt reminiscent of the luxury of the business cabin I remembered.

British Airways partnered with The White Company, an England-based luxury lifestyle brand, for the pack, which came in a leather pouch.

Business class kit
Some of the items in this kit felt luxurious. Sara Shah/Insider

The contents of the amenity kit included the typical offerings: a toothbrush and toothpaste, foam earplugs, socks, and an eye mask.

The toothbrush and earplugs are always disposable, but I expected the eye mask and socks to be of higher quality. They felt like something I could buy at a grocery store.

That said, I really liked The White Company toiletries, which were from the SPA Restore collection and included moisturizer, a thick lip balm, and a pulse-point aromatherapy oil roller.

The pulse-point oil roller was my favourite, and it smelled divine. I felt transported into a relaxing spa every time I applied it throughout the flight.

The kit also included a pen, which was a thoughtful touch since I always feel like I’m fishing through my bag to find one when I fly.

My business-class dinner was lacklustre and disappointing

Aeroplane food
My meal was served in a box. Sara Shah/Insider

Dinner came by just over an hour after takeoff and I was disappointed by the offerings. I think I could’ve gotten the same food in economy, and I genuinely wondered if this is what was being served in that class.

I ate a couple of bites of the cold salad, which had large chunks of what I think was either cheese or tofu, I couldn’t tell. I also ate a few bites of my vegetarian sandwich.

I was craving a hot meal, and although I suspected the airline was playing it safe by opting for prepackaged food, I felt the meal was a bit too safe.

I wished the airline would have still served a prepackaged meal that was warmed in a microwave.

My TV screen was about the size of the box that my dinner came in

My tv screen
My screen was quite compact. Sara Shah/Insider

Once I finished my meal, I watched TV on my personal screen, which was probably about 12 or 13 inches wide and slightly larger than the ones in economy.

As I stared at my empty dinner box in front of the screen, I started to wonder if it was really worth the business-class price tag.

I fell asleep for a bit and woke up to another mostly cold meal

Aeroplane food
My meal came in a brown box. Sara Shah/Insider

I finally fell asleep after three or four hours, though it was pretty uncomfortable to snooze with a mask on.

When I woke up, I was given a brown box that was topped with a slightly warm croissant with cheese.

My meal
The meal was a bit lacklustre. Sara Shah/Insider

The box contained a cold cup of fruit, an even colder muffin, and some disposable utensils.

Once again, I missed the usual meal-service perks that business class offers, like plates and silverware. I understand that travel has changed amid the pandemic, but I missed these little luxuries.

By the end of the flight, I’d sanitised my hands about a hundred times

Hand sanitizer in window
I felt like I wanted to sanitize everything. Sara Shah/Insider

I didn’t have much time between waking up, eating my small breakfast, and landing.

I felt like I wanted to keep cleaning my hands during the entire flight just to be extra cautious. I used my own sanitizer since the packet the airline gave me was used up hours ago.

At least it was bright outside, so I could feel my body starting to naturally wake up despite the jet lag and slight lack of sleep. But as I left the flight, I still felt a bit uneasy.

Like many other international flights, this one was not operating at full capacity, which meant there was ample spacing between the passengers on board.

Still, I was nervous given that I was breathing the same air as other passengers for over nine hours on an international flight. The CDC has said the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air, especially when in prolonged contact with someone who has it, and experts have been divided about how safe air travel really is even with proper mask usage.

Overall, the business-class price tag doesn’t seem worth it anymore to me

My flight
Business class no longer feels as luxurious as it had before. Sara Shah/Insider

Flying business class, which can typically cost five to 10 times more than economy, just didn’t feel worth it to me during this time.

I don’t know how other airlines are adapting to this “new normal,” but I would have appreciated if British Airways had stepped up its business-class service with warm prepackaged meals and extra sanitizing wipes.

If you’re wondering whether or not to spring for a business-class ticket during the ongoing global pandemic, I’d tell you to save your money unless you really need some sleep on the lay-flat seats and are travelling for more than 10 hours.

You may even be better off buying three economy seats — it may very well be cheaper and you’d get three disappointing boxed meals for dinner instead of one.

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