Written by Jennifer Morris, owner of Travel Savvy
Review Time! For our recent UK adventure, I specifically booked the British Airways direct flight form Durban to London and back to see what this route is like, and how the offering on BA stacked up. So, here’s the first-hand account!
First, the positives:
It’s a direct flight. I cannot overstate how fantastic it is to embark in one place and disembark at your destination without the stress and hassle of navigating a transit anywhere. The comfort and convenience of that, especially if you’re travelling with children, is worth the fare alone.
They offer a carry-on only fare. As a light traveller and novice minimalist, I try to only travel with carry-on luggage. It was super to be offered a reduced fare as a hand-luggage only traveller! Also, the hand-luggage allowance is very generous. You’re allowed a normal carry-on bag of up to 23kg, and then either a laptop bag or backpack weighing another 23kg! We easily got all of our belongings into that with room to spare. I’m glad that this is a trend a lot of airlines are following.
The BA crew on our flights were very personable and friendly. I overheard one of the inflight assistants dealing with a rather fractious and difficult traveller, and she didn’t lose her cool or poise once (I would have hit him over the head with his carry-on if he’d spoken to me that way, but that’s probably why I don’t work for British Airways at 30 000 feet).
The food was pretty good! We ordered vegan meals for both flights, and I enjoyed all four meals very much. There seems to have been a mix-up with the order because our dinners arrived as per ordered, but at breakfast time only one of us got a vegan meal, even though the order was clearly marked on their manifest. This happened on both flights! However, the aforementioned friendly crew did their best to resolve the issue, and Uchenna wasn’t too stressed about eating an omelette.
The entertainment system is easy to use and personal. There was a large array of choice in movies, television, games, music, podcasts and even a few audiobooks, so the 11-hour flight went quickly.
We got there safely. Plane went up, plane went down and no-one died. Always a good thing.
Terminal 5 — the home of British Airways at London Heathrow — is easy to navigate, well-lit, well-staffed and airy. We had minimal trouble finding our way to immigration on arrival (some clearer signposts to Terminal 3 & 4 would be nice) and no trouble at all when we checked in for our flight home. The whole process took as long as a domestic flight here takes, with minimal fuss. Uchenna was intimidated by the security and border control officers, but calmed down as they made it clear that they weren’t going to rush her through and that she could take her time as we unpacked and displayed our hand luggage for inspection.
Now, some negatives:
My hat…those seats are cramped! The seat width was fine, but the space between your nose and the back of the seat in front of you seemed very limited indeed! I’m not a very tall person (5ft 6ish), and I don’t normally struggle on flights, but I was seriously uncomfortable all the way to London and all the way back. My feet and legs swelled worse than they ever have before, even though I was on the aisle, and my neck muscles seized up after 11 hours of wiggling around, trying to get comfy. Normally I can drop the tray table, rest my arms and head on it and get some sleep. There was no way to do this on BA. It was a tight squeeze. If you are a tall person, either save up for the Premium Economy or Business Class seats, or make peace with the fact that you’re in for a rough trip.
It’s an 11 hour flight from Durban to London. We were fed a breakfast within 90 minutes of take-off, which was grand, but then offered nothing else until about 90 minutes before we landed. We’d thankfully packed a few snacks which we had for lunch, but it seems strange that a period of time that would usually include three meals on the ground only includes two in the air. Pack snacks if you, like me, like to graze throughout the day or if you’re travelling with children who are likely to find the 7+ hours between meals a little trying.
Plastic. OMG, single-use plastic everywhere! Every single damn thing is wrapped in plastic, from the plastic forks to the headphones. When you ask for a glass of water, it comes in a tiny plastic throwaway cup. I wasn’t expecting bone china, but surely an airline as big and as successful as British Airways can come up with some ways to minimise the plastic waste? I’ve written them to say so — the more of us who complain, the more likely they are to take heed. I did appreciate that they’ve done away with the unnecessary little bags of complimentary socks/eye masks and tiny toiletries, although I suspect this has more to do with keeping their own costs down than minimising their carbon footprint. However, the earphones we were given were also single use items. This needs to be addressed.
Flying is, sadly, one of the most environmentally-unfriendly things you can do. This isn’t BA’s fault specifically, but I thought I’d mention it here because we all need to make tough decisions about the future of travel. Burning jet fuel releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Greenhouse gases block heat from escaping from the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise just like in a greenhouse. This heats up the earth and…well, it’s a short road to extinction for us all if we don’t stop that from happening. A bit of a downer, but there you go.
All in all, travelling direct from Durban to London and back on British Airways was a good experience. If planning the same trip again, I’d probably opt for the same flights simply because flying direct is such a pleasure. If I could do it in Premium Economy or Business, that would be heaven.