I recently had the opportunity to attend a private event at the British Airways i360; a unique vertical cable-car attraction located along the bustling seafront in the city of Brighton and Hove. I thought I would share my experience with you and delve into why the i360 is a great venue to host a party or event. I have also included some photographs from the event and previous trips on the attraction.
What is the i360?
The British Airways i360 is a vertical cable-car made up of a glass viewing pod which slowly travels to a height of 138m (450ft) to offer impressive, 360-degree views of the city of Brighton and Hove, the South Downs and the Sussex coastline. The attraction currently holds the record for being the world’s tallest moving observation tower; and also for being the slimmest tower in the world. The diameter of the tower is just 4.6 metres in length. The British Airways i360 was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, whom also designed the London Eye.
British Airways are the inaugural naming rights partner to the attraction. Hence journeys are referred to a “flights” and staff proudly wear the BA uniform. Each flight lasts for approximately 25-minutes including embarkation and disembarkation; which is plenty of time to enjoy the views. On a clear day you can see for up to 26-miles and if you are really lucky – you might just be able to spot the Isle of Wight towards the South West.
The pod itself feels very spacious and can accommodate a maximum of 199 guests on each flight. Even when at capacity there is plenty of room to move around. As you can probably tell from the photo above, there is a bar on board. The Nyetimber Sky Bar serves a variety of locally produced beverages including Nyetimber Sparkling Wine, Brighton Gin and Tonic, Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter, South Downs Still or Sparkling Water and Wobblegate Apple Juice. Drinks prices are comparable with other tourist attractions and hotels in the South East.
As with any venue nowadays, the British Airways i360 is available for hire in part or full. You can opt to hire one of the function rooms located within The Beach Building, the Bellevue restaurant and/or West Pier tea rooms. You are also able to hire the pod exclusively for a flight or even the entire venue including multiple trips on the pod. A typical charter of the pod for one 25-minute flight is around £2,000. If you really wanted to, the British Airways i360 is even licensed to hold wedding ceremonies. Full information on events available can be found in the events brochure.
My Evening Experience
I attended an evening event at the attraction which took place from 19:00 – 21:00 and included a trip on the pod. Upon arrival at the venue, I was directed to make my way to the beach building via a dedicated entrance into one of the large and expansive event rooms. My name was checked off the guest list and I was welcomed with a glass of bubbly or orange juice. I don’t drink so I had the latter. A cloakroom was also available so I could store my coat. Unfortunately the weather was a little unpredictable then.
I hate being late, so I happened to be one of the first guests to arrive – which isn’t always a bad thing. However soon many more guests turned up and it was great to recognise some familiar faces whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while.
There are several event rooms located within The Beach Building, many of which can actually be opened up to create one large events space. I think this is good as it allows the venue to cater for many different events which are large or small. Versatility is a great thing.
As I entered the venue my name was checked off the guest list and I was presented with a “Boarding Pass” for one of the two private flights which would be operating during the event. Mine was for the 19:30 flight. Music was playing and waiting staff were wandering around offering glasses of sparkling wine, orange or apple juice. Alternatively guests were able to grab a drink from behind the bar. At around 19:20 an announcement was made encouraging guests whom held a ticket for the 19:30 flight to pass through a quick security check before waiting to step on board the pod. In the waiting area a little exhibition showcasing how the attraction was built had been set up. It was very interesting to learn more about the design, construction and engineering process by the infographics on the wall, and a short movie.
Soon enough the pod arrived at beach building level and once the doors opened, guests were encouraged to step onto the pod itself ready for an on-time flight departure. If you know me well, then you know that this is somewhat ironic.
Just after 19:30 and the doors started the close and we slowly began our ascent to 450ft. Travelling on the British Airways i360 is very smooth, you barely can feel you are moving. I’ve been on the attraction itself quite a few times since it opened, but it was great to view the reactions of my colleagues whom had never visited the i360 or even Brighton in the past. I still feel like a child every time I reach the top and look down on the city which I had called home for many years. Unfortunately visibility wasn’t that great during the event, but I’ve included a photograph below on what a typical sunset does look like from 450ft!
The pod itself features four large television screens, an audio/PA system and ambient lighting. What I like in the evenings is when the lighting is set to a mood-setting and the music is turned up slightly to evoke a chic and stylish atmosphere.
Looking over the city of Brighton and Hove is very interesting as you can see how everything blends in together to form a diverse city. I like that some building’s have actually installed artwork on their rooftops which can only be viewed from above – a great excuse for a trip on the BA i360 and a good way for artists to showcase their latest creations.
During each flight, you stop at the top for several minutes. Many people think that the viewing pod rotates. Put simply, it doesn’t and guests are actively encouraged to walk around (if they choose) to discover the view from different angles. Here’s an actual photo from the event, as you can see it was pretty dull outside – but you can’t help the weather, can you?
And as quick as that the pod started to slowly make it’s descent back to the ground. As I mentioned earlier the journey itself is very smooth. You hardly feel as though you are moving. If you are brave enough, you can lean over the edge of the curved glass and look directly below – otherwise just keep looking at the horizon and take a seat on the benches around the middle if heights really aren’t your thing.
As we arrived back in the beach building, guests were encouraged to return back to one of the event spaces where canapés were being served.
The canapés themselves were presented on wooden boards and you could say were delightfully more-ish. I confess I did forget to snap a photograph of the food as I was too busy talking and eating. Shocking, I know.
Thoughts on holding an event at the British Airways i360
I felt that the BA i360 was a fantastic place to hold an event. It’s a unique environment which I think works very well for corporate functions, special celebrations and weddings. I could definitely see it as a place where companies could unveil their latest products or treat stakeholders for an trip out of the office.
All the staff I came across, whether they were working for the i360 or the catering company were very friendly and professional; and genuinely made sure guests were looked after.
Visit for yourself
If you want to visit the British Airways i360 for yourself, you’ll find it located along the Lower Kings Road in Brighton, very close to the Brighton Centre. There are plenty of car parks within a 5-minute walk from the venue, the train station is 15-minutes North, and the City Sightseeing bus stops right outside.
The attraction is open daily from around 10:00 with flights departing every 30-minutes. During the busy summer months and on weekends it is advisable to book your ticket online at BritishAirwaysi360.com. That way you can download your ticket on your smartphone and also take advantage of an early-booking discount.