5th September 2012 at 08:27 #561016
Anonymous5th September 2012 at 08:27 #561017
I flew Club World from ATL to LHR. It’s another bit of a long review, but hopefully there will be points of use to people who (like me) don’t fly CW a lot and wanted to know more about it.
BA’s been moved to new concourse building F at Terminal 1 in Atlanta airport. Most of the concourse belongs to Delta (who’ve got 3 of the check in aisles), but it’s easy to find BA on the furthest left hand side in aisle 5 (they’re next to Air Canada, Trans Air and Lufthansa).
Because a friend of mine had to cancel a planned lunch, I arrived at the airport very early at around 2.30pm for a 9.20pm flight. The BA staff didn’t arrive on the desks until about 3pm, which was a little frustrating because I’d checked in on-line the night before the flight through BA’s website but had opted to pick up my boarding pass at the airport because my hotel charged for printing. Unfortunately there was no sign of any self-check in booths near the BA desks that would have at least enabled me to pick up the pass and then just wait to check in my suitcase and there doesn’t look to be any plans to install any soon either.
It took the BA ground staff about 15 minutes to get the desks ready to start checking in passengers, by which time there were 3 passengers in line (including me). None of the staff attempted to explain to those of us in line how long it would take to finish the set up, which I found a little rude given that they could see us waiting and it would have taken nothing to just tell us how long it would be.
Saying that, they were a lot better with two passengers who were looking to purchase tickets for that night’s flight – I didn’t overhear the whole conversation but evidently the passengers had been given incorrect information, which the staff were doing their best to resolve.
I was the only person waiting to check into CW, which meant I was seen first. Notwithstanding what I said above, check in itself was really simple, the ground crew member was very helpful and friendly and put 2 priority labels on my suitcase. She also explained that the CW lounge in Concourse F was still being constructed, so I needed to go to concourse E to the current CW lounge. Apparently the new lounge isn’t due to be completed until December 2012/January 2013, which is a shame although she was very enthusiastic about how it was coming together. She gave me a map showing the way to the existing lounge, explained how long it would probably take to get from there to the gate and also said that the lounge wouldn’t open until 4.30pm.
By the time I cleared the TSA security checks I had about an hour to kill before the CW lounge opened. Concourse B’s got an interesting mix of shops, including a decent duty free outlet with a good range of perfume and booze, a MAC make-up store (where I found the assistants to be really good – happy to let you try without pressuring you to buy), and a Mount Blanc store.
There was a food court with a Starbucks in Concourse F but I didn’t really see anything there to tempt me and because the new BA CW lounge seems to be housed up there, there was some construction noise. Consequently I headed over to the E concourse, which had a wider range of food shops. Access to Concourse E is via either a mono-rail-type train (which takes 2 minutes) or you can walk it in about 7 minutes. I opted to walk because I needed the exercise. I ended up buying a diet coke from one of the small vendors and had a stroll around.
The CW lounge was open when I arrived just after 4.30pm and there were already a couple of other passengers there. The BA receptionist was very warm, very friendly and very welcoming. She gave me the wireless password for the lounge and encouraged me to help myself to the food and drink (something that was echoed by all of the staff members there).
The lounge itself was okay – the furniture was a little worn but there were plenty of chairs, a television pumping out CNN and a decent view of the airside part of the terminal (which is probably for me the best bit because you see all planes going in and out and getting ready for their flights). There were also a couple of computer terminals for anyone who didn’t want to use their own laptops. To be honest, I got the feeling that it’s all being maintained prior to the new look lounge being opened, but it was all fine for me.
There were plenty of drinks on offer, including bottles of white wine that was in an ice bucket, red wine, champagne, a range of beers (including some low alcohol beer) and a range of soft drinks, tea and coffee.
The snacks were fine if a little uninspiring – pre-packed cheddar and monterey jack cheese plus 3 types of cracker, water biscuits, fruit and packets of raisins. At about 6pm though the staff started to bring out trays of freshly made sandwiches and sliced up pitta bread with a dip. Given that I was planning on eating on the plane anyway, it was all okay and I just helped myself to pitta bread and cheese but if you don’t want to eat on the flight, then my recommendation would be to check out the Concourse E food court and have your meal there.
At about 8.15pm I decided to head on over to the gate. This time I took the train and the total time from CW lounge to gate F27 was about 6 minutes (including the walking). There were a lot of passengers at the gate although there were still a lot of seats available.
A crowd had already begun to gather at the entrance to the gate (including some passengers with obvious mobility issues) but boarding didn’t start for another 5 minutes. Priority was given to First and CW passengers plus BAEC Gold card holders. Unfortunately the crowd at the gate showed no signs of moving back from the gate entrance, despite repeated polite requests from the ground crew that they should do so. I don’t think that the crew could have done more than they did, but I was a bit self-conscious about having to push past an old lady in a wheelchair in order to board the plane.
I’d pre-selected seat 10J, which is in the front row of the cabin. It’s close to the toilets but there’s no diagonal window seat (which means no risk of anyone trying and failing to climb over my legs while I’m asleep), there’s enough of a gap to the cabin kitchen for the noise not to bother me and you actually get a little bit of extra space to store your stuff during the night as there’s a gap between the bulk head and the window seat 10K.
The downside of the seat is that it’s right next to the engines, so you need to use ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper and there is always a risk of someone knocking against you when they’re on their way to the toilet or kitchen. I was prepared to take that risk because in my experience, most people just sleep on the flight but it’s something to bear in mind.
I was one of the first passengers on board so was able to watch everyone else. The cabin crew were quick to offer me a choice of champagne, buck’s fizz or water and I went for the champagne, which was very drinkable. Boarding was pretty swift. Economy and Premium Economy didn’t seem to me to be full, but CW didn’t have a lot of seats left.
We pushed back from the gate at about 9pm and were in the air by 9.20pm. The pilot gave some information on the estimated flight time and warned that it might be bumpy over the Atlantic. The cabin lights were then switched off, meaning that if you wanted to read etc, then you had to switch on your reading light. The cabin crew then came around with menus amenity bags (which contained the normal socks, blindfold, ear plugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, Elemis face cream, eye cream, lip gloss and a facial wipe) and did another drinks run before taking orders.
The AVOD was turned on pretty promptly. The AVOD on this flight wasn’t as sophisticated as the AVOD on my flight out to LAX and there wasn’t nearly as much choice. Given that this was a night flight, it wasn’t much of a bother but if you’ve had the better/newer one then you do notice the creaks more. In particular, on this flight control was through a touch screen interface, which I found slow to react to commands and often needed to be stabbed repeatedly to work. You can forward wind, pause and rewind but it was all more irritating than it needed to be. I ended up watching The Avengers for the umpteenth time (gotta love the Hulk), some episodes of The Big Bang Theory and an episode of CSI.
I chose as my starter the pork rilette with pickled vegetables and grilled toast. I thought this was a great dish actually, the pork wasn’t greasy and had a good smoky flavour – if I was being picky then I could have done with more of the toast. As the alternative you could have tomato tartare with mozzarella pearlini and there was also fresh seasonal salad with vinagrette.
For the main meal, I went for the black truffle tortellini with chestnut sauce and roasted morel mushrooms. Having been disappointed with my meal on the flight out to LAX (which I’ve written about in a different review), I found this one to be a surprisingly good meal – a lot of flavour and filling without leaving you too full and although some of the pasta was very slightly burnt, for me it didn’t detract from the whole. Dinner came with a choice of bread rolls, which weren’t warm but were fine. Alternative main meal choices were:
– seared fillet of beef with balsamic and red piquillo pepper reduction, roasted fingerling potato mash, green beans and baby carrots; or
– breast of guinea hen with pommes dauphinoise and broccolini; or
– chilled main course salad of spice-crusted salmon on watercress with tangerines, baby fennel an toasted pecans.
I didn’t pay any attention to who had the other options so don’t know if they were any good or not.
I didn’t have desert because neither option (lemon meringue pie or blue stilton and coulommiers cheeses with Crema de Membrillo) appealed. I was offered ice cream as an alternative but was too full for it so instead I finished off my kir royale.
I got so far as plugging in my laptop to do some work (power sockets can only be used if you’ve got a US/Continental plug adapter so don’t put it in your suitcase) before deciding to get some sleep instead. The seat was really easy to convert into a bed (basically lower the footstool and press the horizontal position on the chair seat options – but there are instructions in the seat pocket if you want to check it out). I found the temperature in the cabin to be on the warm side so didn’t use the blanket provided and had to peel off a couple of layers before settling down.
I’m 5′ 4″ so the length and width of the bed was fine for me. If you’re over 6′ I would imagine it’s a bit more of a squeeze but I have to say that I didn’t see anyone around me having problems and personally, I think it’s a hell of a lot better than an economy seat. You’ll need to put your seat belt on as you sleep so make sure that the belt’s not so tight that you can’t turn around.
I managed to get about 3 hours sleep, which is good for me but I’d have had more if the passenger in the window seat hadn’t chosen to open their blind. I didn’t have breakfast (which was a bacon roll that looked a bit too greasy for me or a selection of pastries) because I’d already decided to have a bigger breakfast at the BA arrivals lounge. Service was very swift though and was done and cleared away in about 30 minutes.
By this time the first officer came on to say that we’d started the descent into LHR and had about 40 minutes to go. He whittered on a bit about the weather, local time and sights out of the window. I know some people love that but it drives me barmy because the entertainment system is unavailable while he’s speaking and I’d rather have finished my programme. As it happened, we had about 15 minutes before the AVOD was turned off and headsets collected.
The landing itself was incredibly smooth (my ears didn’t pop once and I’m normally really sensitive) and we got to the gate really quickly. Thanks to my seat choice I was one of the first off the plane, straight after the first class passengers so was quickly through to passport control, which was busy but almost all of the booths were staffed and although a number of flights had landed at the same time, I was through in 5 minutes.
Baggage reclaim was likewise smooth and my suitcase was one of the first off. As a result I was done and out into the BA arrivals lounge within 30 minutes of disembarking. It was my first time there and I was fairly impressed. There was a good choice of breakfast foods (including a fry-up, toast and pastries and fruit) and there was juice, tea and coffee too. The staff were keeping the items stocked up quite efficiently and I was able to eat while reading a newspaper (of which there was a selection of British broadsheets and tabloids).
I would have been interested in trying a treatment at the Elemis spa but from the moment I walked in until the moment I left there was a notice up saying that the therapist was doing treatments so it wasn’t possible to book one. I think that this is something that BA might want to look at with Elemis because it’s clearly a popular facility but if there’s no one there to manage bookings then people who want to take advantage of it can’t. I wasn’t too disappointed at the end of the day because I’d had a good treatment on the way out *but* it is advertised as part of the BA CW package and it’s a simple thing to sort out.
All in all, I found this a good flight. I slept better than I do when in economy/premium economy and the food was good. I’m generally a fairly happy BA customer anyway as I think it’s a reliable product and BA flies where I want to go.
Hope that’s all of use.
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