I suspect that Cincinnati does not receive many visitors from elsewhere in America, let alone abroad. But as one of the first (of hopefully many) to add to those numbers via the newly-launched flights from London, I found it to be so welcoming I felt more like a celebrity than a tourist.
In fact, my experience was positive before I’d even left the UK. To make the most of limited time on the ground, I turned to the city’s subreddit for some local insights (and help with a slightly strange quest) a few days before departure. My post proved surprisingly popular, with tens of thousands of views leading to over 200 comments packed with advice, from what to see LINK to where to eat LINK. Quite a few people offered to meet, whether to play tour guide or grab a drink. I even had a journalist from the local TV news station ask if they could document my trip!
I didn’t expect a huge fanfare at Heathrow, but I imagined the occasion would be marked in some way – balloons, a cake, or a speech are traditional elements. But in the event not only were there no celebrations at the departure gate – there was no departure gate! Instead, we were herded onto busses to take us to a remote stand.
Things improved once aboard, however. New routes start with the 787-8, which would be a first for me but meant the older Club World seating. As such, I had grabbed my favoured spot – a last row window seat, which retains aisle access – as soon as check in opened. This put me in the 14 seat mini-cabin which, I discovered, was otherwise full of journalists. Whether they were fishing for a story or not, I certainly enjoyed the amount of interest my seatmate expressed for both my career and my travels.
Perhaps because of the press, today’s cabin crew must have been carefully picked from BA’s finest, for the in-flight experience was the best I’ve had in a long time. Nothing was too much trouble, service was pro-active, and they got all the little details right. It helped that this was my first taste of the improved Club World catering, which I had just missed out on when I flew to Dubai.
Landing in Cincinnati we were clearly the star attraction – or at least our plane was! Apparently this was the first time a Dreamliner had made an appearance at CVG, and half the ground crew were snapping photos as we taxied in.
Once through a slightly confusing security process, we were treated to the festivities that had been absent in London – with displays throughout the airport announcing the new service, and table of snacks and souvenirs for those who had just arrived or would join the first flight back:
The warm reception continued during my explorations of the city LINK. At my first proper tourist spot, the Cincinnati Zoo, two older ladies pulled me out of the ticket queue, declared me to be their English grandson, and snuck me in free of charge on their membership card. I had been disappointed that the Museum Center was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (my only sightseeing options), but this actually worked in my favour – through a contact I was able to get a private tour of the exhibits.
My accent immediately outs me as British, and about half the people I interacted with were able to join the dots with the new flights; the rest were enthused by the idea of a direct link to London, and impressed I had made the trip!
On balance, I wish I had assigned more time to Cincinnati, and less to DC, where I was entirely anonymous amongst the tourist crowds. Still, that means there is potential for a return – and if BA ever adds somewhere similarly obscure, I’ll definitely try to once again be part of the first wave.