THE FLIGHT DECK • June 2023
Travel writer, USA lover, and Executive Club Member Laura Millar was thrilled to head to Cincinnati on our inaugural flight. Here, she gives us an insight into the experience from 35,000 feet and gets us excited about this brand-new route...
As a seasoned British Airways flier, I’ve had the app for several years, so checking in to flight BA121 the day before my flight is a doddle. I always like to do this 24 hours beforehand so I get my choice of seat (success: I bag the window). There are some questions to fill in for the USA side – ESTA number, address while there, etc – but it all takes less than five minutes.
I travel fairly frequently, so packing has become pretty routine. Having checked the weather in Cincinnati, it looks like temperatures will be in the high 20°s and sunny – cue shorts, T-shirts and sundresses, which have the added benefit of taking up less room in my hand luggage (despite the generous allowance, I hate to put any bags in the hold). Packing is when I start to get excited: I’ve heard good things about Cincy’s dining scene (one of its signature dishes involves chilli, cheese and spaghetti – yes please!), and I’m also looking forward to sampling exceptional beer and bourbon, since the city straddles both Ohio and Kentucky.
The following day, I take my well-worn route to Heathrow: hopping on the Northern line at Archway, where I live, changing at King’s Cross on to the Piccadilly line, then arriving at T5 around an hour and 20 minutes later. I check in at the glamorous and whisper-quiet First Wing. Security is a breeze, and I have access to the smart Concorde Room, where I take up position on the terrace and the Champagne starts flowing. I order the chicken escalope with fried egg, then help myself to afternoon tea – I always put the cream on my scone first.
I’m among the last to board (I couldn’t resist one last glass of fizz...) and am warmly welcomed on to the 787-8 Dreamliner (40 per cent more fuel-efficient than the 747) by the cabin crew. I take my seat in 6K, in the second section of the Club World cabin. The crew are animated about the new route. In-flight manager Emmy Just tells me: “I’m really excited! And we’re in a 787-8, which has better cabin pressure and helps reduce jet lag.”
Lunch is served, and I tuck into a tasty beef tataki with asparagus followed by braised ox cheeks with gratin potatoes and French beans. It’s accompanied by a delicious, full-bodied Portuguese red, a 2021 Opta Reserva Dão.
I get chatting to James, my seat-mate in 6J (the cabin is in a two-two-two configuration). Originally from Worcester, he’s spent five years living in Cincinnati, where he works for a finance company, and he travels back to the UK regularly. “This new route’s a game-changer,” he enthuses. “Previously, I’d have had to change in Chicago or Philly. This cuts hours off the journey, and I’ve already got several family members booked to come and visit over the next few months.”
Before I know it (and after treating myself to a long nap and 80s-era Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark), we’re beginning our descent. I gaze out of the window as we head for Cincy. There is a lot of greenery below, and it seems Kentucky is already living up to its name as the bluegrass state. As we taxi in to the terminal, I can see gaggles of ground staff taking pictures and videos of our arrival on their phones. This is a big deal, for both countries – it’s the first direct route from the UK to Cincinnati.
It doesn’t take too long to get through security, as we’re the only incoming flight at this time. I get chatting to another passenger in the queue, who explains she’s come over for a relative’s wedding. Bypassing the baggage carousel, I come into arrivals and am greeted by a contingent from the tourist board, Visit Cincy, who have set up tables with branded iced biscuits, water bottles and US and UK flags – cute!
I’m staying in Covington, on the Kentucky side of Cincinnati, and my hotel is only a 17-minute drive away from the airport. There is a bus service from the aiport (the Airporter) that would take me there, but I’m still in feeling-fancy mode and treat myself to an Uber. I predict a relatively early night, although I don’t feel too jetlagged, thanks to the Dreamliner. When I wake up tomorrow, it’ll be time to discover all this American city has to offer.