I travelled from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow Terminal 5 on a Boeing 787-900 in early November 2015.
I arrived at Abu Dhabi Terminal 1 at about 1am, having left my hotel at 12.30pm. The departure time of the flight was 2:45am and after an initial security scan of my baggage, I found the BA check-in quickly. Quite surprisingly, there were no queue at all and I walked straight up to a counter. I was checked in by a very polite woman who was wearing a uniform/name badge for Etihad ground services. I was reminded that I had a window seat and I confirmed that no one was sitting next to me. Although I didn't ask, there was a sign on the check-in counter telling passengers that upgrades maybe be available – albeit pricing was only available on request. There was no queue at passport control and security was very quick. I spent my time in the terminal shopping and made a visit to the third party lounge that BA uses, which I had been to a couple of times before.
A quick couple of observations about the lounge:
– showers are available but they seemed to be really busy – ask straight away on entry if you are interested;
– there is a manned bar with a good selection of drinks including wines and spirits;
– good selection of food available including plenty of hot dishes, Middle Eastern mezze, fruit, cheese and some desserts;
– this lounge can get very busy and it was not the most relaxing environment when I entered – few available seats and people lying across the various chairs/sofas. However, it did start to empty out about 20 minutes after I arrived.
By the time I had finished my duty free shopping, it was around 2:15am and the departure board was showing the flight as being on its final call. Boarding was from Gate 9 and the area was completely empty apart from the ground agents. There was a very warm welcome from several members of crew – I was welcomed back as a BA frequent flyer and given directions to my seat. I was sitting in seat 20K and the seat next to me was empty. The WTP cabin was only about 50% full and two of the middle rows were completely empty. I was glad there wasn't the usual scramble for overhead locker space – mine was the only bag in the locker above my seat. For some reason the only pre departure drink on offer was still water (maybe the time of the flight, although I could see juice was being served in CW).
One of the best things about this flight were the crew – whilst there was one exception, they seemed genuinely pleasant and keen to help. A male attendant called 'Jules' introduced himself to every passenger in the WTP cabin, which I've never seen before and certainly did not happen on the outward journey.
There was the usual blanket, pillow and noise cancellation earphones on my seat. I really like the spaciousness of the 787 – the cabin definitely seems higher and less claustrophobic. I'm also a fan of the refreshed WTP hard product; albeit I had only flown overnight it in once before. The inseat power worked well and did a good job of charging my iPad during the flight. I did not use the in-flight entertainment during the flight, but the interactive map was working well.
At 2:40 the captain, Mark Wordsworth, made an introductory announcement. The flight was going to be about 7 hours and 45 minutes – the captain joked that he hoped that we had enjoyed the good weather as it was going to be 12C, wet and windy on our arrival into London. Interestingly, he went to ask that we show consideration to our 'colleagues' (fellow passengers) and asked that, as it was a night flight, we take care to ensure that we close the overhead lockers as quietly as possible. Menus were handed out at about 2:45. Push back was just before 2:50. The taxi and subsequent take off was at about 3:15am after a long wait at the side of the runway.
Shortly after take off I put on my eye mask, reclined the seat and then fell to sleep within about 15 minutes. The menu did refer to light refreshments being offered but I completely missed these as I was so keen to sleep (the equivalent snack box on the outward journey had included a small sandwich and a Kit Kat).
I slept for about 4.5 hours.
I was woken by the cabin lights being switched on for breakfast. I did think they were switched on a little early because it was another 30 minutes before anyone in WTP was served any food. Breakfast comprised a starter of fresh seasonal fruit followed by a main choice of cheese omelette with English breakfast sausage, turkey ham, grilled tomato, potato hash and mushroom or a vegetarian option of fresh herb omelette with lyonnaise potatoes. There were also a small muffin in a plastic packet, a strawberry yoghurt, sachet of Lurpack butter and a small container of orange juice on my tray. Bread and tea/coffee were offered at the same time. Overall I was happy with the quality of the food served; the breakfast and yoghurt were really good and I thought it was definitely better than the hot breakfast served on a Virgin Atlantic flight in PE I had taken a few weeks earlier (for which I have posted a separate review).
At 10:20 there was an announcement to say that we were about 40 minutes outside London and the weather was better than had originally been forecast. We were going to be bussed from the aircraft to Terminal 5A. As it was peak arrival time at Heathrow we would be in holding pattern for some time before landing. The undercarriage came down at 11:07 (7:07am). Landing was at 11:10, which was 35 minutes later than scheduled. As the load was relatively light, disembarkation was swift and I arrived at Terminal 5A within a few minutes of boarding the bus waiting at the bottom of the steps. There was no queue at all at passport control for the e-gates and my suitcase arrived with the priority label intact within a couple of minutes of me arriving at carousel 11.
Overall this was a solid flight. It ticked all three of my boxes for overnight flights: allowing passengers to sleep soon as possible on boarding; a comfortable seat for sleeping in a dark and not overheated cabin; a hearty breakfast to start the day with. The 787-900 is definitely a great aircraft to fly in, however, I wonder if BA could have been innovative in the design of its interior (?). This was one of the best long-haul flights I have taken with BA and I will try and book the 787 in future where it is available.