Steve McCabe flies British Airways' longest service, BA250, from Chile to the UK
A brand-new Boeing 787-9. BA now has 14 of these in their fleet, and the Dreamliner's impressive range has enabled BA to open up its Heathrow-Santiago route; at 14 hours and 40 minutes, the outbound leg is British Airways' longest flight.
Class: I booked an Economy Class ticket, but a little last-minute wheedling and pleading at the gate got me an upgrade to Business Class, branded on BA aircraft as Club World.
Price: A fully-paid return ticket on this route will cost, according to the BA website, about $10,000.
Flight time: 14 hours and 20 minutes. We were up, and down, five minutes late.
My seat: British Airways has a rather odd layout in its business-class cabin, with alternate seats in a row facing forward and backward. I was allocated seat 7A, a window seat, which meant I was facing backward. Between me and 7B was a dividing screen, which had to be down for take-off; I spent the first 20 minutes of the flight avoiding eye-contact with the chap sitting almost opposite.
The seat itself was, as one would expect for such a price, remarkably comfortable, opening out into a flat bed what was almost, but not quite, long enough for me to stretch out straight. I don't expect any sympathy, but I do expect a ticket costing several months' Auckland mortgage payments to provide a couple more inches of sleeping room.
The seat is in a little cocoon, and to get out I had to climb over another passenger's when he was asleep — I think I might have kicked him at least once, no matter how hard I tried to avoid doing so. A little drawer under the tray table and entertainment screen, a great place to store a book and a phone charger, was an excellent addition.
Fellow passengers: Really not sure. I was so wonderfully sequestered away in my little space that I wasn't particularly aware of who I was sharing a plane with. And it was lovely.
How full: About two-thirds full, which is why cabin crew were able to switch my seat about an hour into the flight.
Entertainment: A large screen folded out from the side-wall of the cocoon, and offered an excellently extensive selection of new and old, English and foreign-language films. I watched Anata No Na Wa, a rather lovely new Japanese animation, before I slept, and Pulp Fiction, a less lovely classic, afterwards. The screen, though, did illustrate one problem with flying backwards — as we climbed, the hinge on the screen was too loose to stop it from swinging backward and closing. Cabin crew very helpfully moved me to a new seat with a stiffer hinge, and life was good once more.
The service: Superb. A youngish crew were friendly and helpful, and found just the right balance between attentive and intrusive.
Food and drink: Dinner was served about an hour and a half after take-off, a very pleasant, if slightly tough, tenderloin of beef, with a shrimp starter and cheese for dessert. And when you're flying into London, a full English is the obvious choice for breakfast. My glass was kept filled with a very agreeable 2015 Pouilly-Fumé as long as I was awake; a snack cupboard rather grandly branded Club Kitchen offered crisps and icecream and quarter-bottles of wine through the night.
The toilets: Maybe I missed something, but I only found two toilets for the entire business-class cabin. They were clean, but quite cramped; the only concession to their premium-class status was a small row of Elemis lotions in little squirties by the handbasin.
Luggage: I could have checked in two 32kg bags; I had only one with me. Because I'd checked in as a mere Economy Class passenger, my bag didn't get the "priority" tag on it, and I had to wait a surprisingly long time at the baggage carousel.
The airport experience: US$55 bought me access to LATAM's lounge at Santiago Airport. It's a huge, bright, comfortable space, with a smallish food selection and an extensive bar. At the other end, Terminal, British Airway's massive home at Heathrow Airport, is huge, efficient, and utterly impersonal.
The bottom line: I've had the great good fortune to fly long-haul Business Class on a handful of airlines before, and I'd rate BA's Club World offering as being as good as any of them. Yes, I'd definitely fly this way again; no, I'm not at all sure I'll get the chance.