28th May 2014 at 07:37 #570926
Anonymous28th May 2014 at 07:37 #570927
I flew on BA296 from ORD to LHR in Club World on a 777-300.
I arrived at ORD at 17:15 for the 20:25 flight because I wasn’t sure how long the TSA line would be and because I knew that BA operated a sleeper service on this flight and wanted to eat before I got on the plane. The BA desks were easy to find within the terminal and clearly signposted.
I’d checked in the night before using the BA App and had opted to pick up my boarding pass at the airport. There were 2 BA check in terminals at ORD but only one was working when I arrived and both had been positioned next to the Royal Jordanian check-in desks, meaning that I had to go through a long queue of people in order to use one. The terminal seemed to have some difficulty in reading my electronic passport and it took several attempts before it would issue the boarding pass. I then headed over to the check in desks to drop off my bag and found that there were only 4 desks open. There was a long line at bag drop but the CW line was empty so I waited patiently for one of the desks to become available, at which point an economy passenger in the bag drop line decided to push in front of me. The check in agent made no attempt to put him back in line, which left me a little irritated – not least because it was the first class desk that had become available. I eventually got called forward by a different agent who put a priority tag on my suitcase, explained that I could use the priority TSA line and told me how to find the BA lounge.
I then headed over to security where the lines were short and there were signs up explaining what to do and how the procedure operated. I was through in 5 minutes and had a quick browse of the airside shops before making for the BA Terraces Lounge, which is between gates M11 and M12 and is clearly signposted. I got a friendly welcome from the male lounge dragon but I had to ask him how the sleeper service operated as he didn’t bother to see if I was familiar with it.
Before heading for something to eat I took a few minutes to explore the lounge area. It’s divided into different sections with TC screens on the wall showing news and sports programmes. There’s a quieter area towards the back near a row of computer terminals available for passenger use. Lounge staff were putting out a mix of sandwiches and wraps in one of the bar areas but none of them really caught my fancy. There was also a range of crisps, crudités, cheese and crackers to eat and a good mix of spirits and soft drinks. I helped myself to a ginger ale while I sorted out my bags and then popped through to the toilets, which were clean with baby changing facilities in the disabled cubicle and free sanitary products available.
Once I was ready to eat, I went through to the main restaurant area for the sleeper service (note that First Class has its own dining room), which is provided as a buffet. There seemed to me to be a decent range of food – soup (tomato and basil) with bread rolls, fish cakes, chicken and a variety of vegetables (including mashed sweet potato). I ended up ordering Vietnamese Pho noodles, which are made to order and which I thought was very good. There was a choice of deserts available, but I opted for some cheese and once I was finished, returned to the main lounge.
An announcement was made that boarding for the flight would start in 10 minutes, giving everyone a chance to get their stuff together and then a second announcement was made once boarding had commenced. Some of the lounge staff had gathered at the door as we were leaving to wish passengers goodbye and offer chocolate mints, which I thought was a nice touch.
The departure gate was M11, which was literally 2 minutes walk from the lounge. Boarding had indeed begun by the time I got there so I don’t know if priority boarding was in operation but I did hear an announcement calling for passengers with young children to come forward.
Boarding was via air-bridge and I received a friendly greeting from cabin crew at the door together with directions on how to find my seat. I’d pre-selected 16K at the time of booking on the basis that it was a window seat with direct aisle access. The only real downside is that it’s close to the WCs and while they’re supposed to be reserved for CW passengers, the WT+ cabin is right behind it so I realised there was a chance they’d get a lot of use during the flight. In addition, 16K is directly over the wing, which meant there wasn’t much of a view but given this was a night time flight it didn’t really bother me.
It was immediately apparent on boarding that the plane was new – it even had a bit of ‘new plane smell’ still clinging to it – and this was later confirmed by the first pilot announcement. As a result the whole plane was in excellent condition – my seat was immaculate and clean although the design of it hasn’t changed and I still found the arm rests to be rickety. A pillow and blanket had been left out on the seat but I immediately noticed that the pillow cover was torn and rumpled (making me wonder if it had just been reused or missed off being replaced from the earlier flight in). It wasn’t a big problem because CW was only half full and the aisle seat next to me was empty so I swapped it out for that seat’s pillow (which was perfectly fine). As I was stowing my bag in the overhead locker a member of cabin crew offered to take my coat for me but I declined as it was easier for me to leave it on the seat next to me.
Once I’d sat down a member of cabin crew offered me the usual choice of orange juice, water or champagne and I opted for champagne. I was also offered a newspaper, which I declined. The IFE was running while we were on the ground and I was delighted to see that it was the latest version of the IFE system, complete with box sets of TV series, a good range of movies and music and a wide variety of games (including interactive games you can play with other passengers on the plane). My alpha female tendencies kicked in and I had a go at a trivia game and was very chuffed to get the high score. Menus were brought around as I was playing. The IFE screen was bigger than on the LGW-MCO flight out that I’d taken but I wasn’t impressed with the responsiveness of the touch screen and the separate controls were pretty poor for most of the games (especially the joystick, which did stick a lot).
At 20:05 the pilot made the usual welcoming announcement and said that we would be leaving on time but that due to the winds being against us we’d probably arrive in LHR about 15 minutes late. He also warned that there was likely to be turbulence on the flight.
The Elemis amenity bags were then brought around together with bottles of water and separate blindfolds and ear plugs (really stupid that they’re not automatically included in the amenity kits now). The pilot then made an announcement that departure would be delayed because the refuelling hadn’t started on time so we were still waiting for it to finish.
We eventually pushed back at 20:20 and the safety video played as we taxied to the runway. A member of cabin crew told me off as we were taxing for having taken off my shoes and told me I needed to either put them in the drawer (which was impossible as they didn’t fit) or I had to put them back on. I opted for the latter but was not impressed – have never been told to do that on any other flight I’ve taken and didn’t appreciate being spoken to as if I was a naughty child. The cabin lights were switched off but the night light built into the seat worked fine.
We took off at 22:50 and food orders were taken at 21:05. The menu was:
– Warm white shrimp with piquillo pepper and gorgonzola;
– Provencale vegetable lasagne with basil ricotta and creamy yellow tomato sauce.
– Mango passion-fruit delice
Alternatively there was hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies.
Chilled fruit juice
An energising fruit smoothie.
Fresh seasonal fruit
Warm bacon roll served with tomato ketchup
A selection of assorted breakfast pastries.
The wine and champagne on offer was:
– Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV
– Pouilly-Fume 2012, Domaine Bardin, Loire Valley, France; or
– Silverado Vineyards Chardonnay 2011, Carneros, California.
– Chianti Classico DOCG 2010, Castello di Bossi, Tuscany, Italy; or
– Reata Three County Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma/Monterey/San Benito, California, USA
Although I’d eaten in the lounge, I wasn’t planning on having any breakfast (not least because from past experience it tends to be rubbish on BA) so I decided to top up my stomach now and opted for the shrimp. Being cheeky, I also asked if I could have the hot chocolate and cookie as well and was told that wouldn’t be a problem.
Unfortunately the hot chocolate and cookie arrived first, which was a bit frustrating as there was no point in having it before the shrimp so I had to leave it to the side where they went cold as I waited another 10 minutes for the main to turn up. It seemed to me that this was something that could have been easily avoided if someone had just taken a moment to think about it. The shrimp was tasty and came served with a warm roll but I wasn’t struck on the desert and was actually pretty glad I’d gone for the hot chocolate and cookie (even though they were tepid by the time I got to them). I was offered a second cookie but was feeling rather full by that point so had to regretfully decline (although I could have found room for a Varda chocolate but as with my LGW-MCO flight, cabin crew did not see fit to distribute these).
Because there was a bit of turbulence, I opted to use the IFE for a bit rather than try (and fail) to sleep. I loved the box sets (which had a good range of programmes) and checked out House of Cards for a while before switching to the music collection (which honestly had something for everyone and hours of it). Cabin crew did a second drinks run as I was entertaining myself.
Once we were over the worst of the turbulence I decided to get some sleep. It was easy enough to turn the seat into a bed, which was comfortable enough but the blanket was very thin and I woke up feeling really cold. Noise wise, I found that as suspected there was some noise from the toilets (not least because the cabin crew made no attempt to stop WT+ passengers from using the CW toilets) but this was easily blocked out using the ear plugs.
I managed to get about 3 hours sleep before being woken up by the pilot’s announcement that there was 40 minutes to landing. I discovered that the cabin crew had left some breakfast for me in the next seat in case I was hungry, which was very kind but I was still working off the over-indulgence from a few hour’s earlier.
The seat belt sign went on once the 20 minutes to landing announcement had been made. A video then played explaining the arrivals and transfer process at LHR. We ended up landing at 10:15 (UK time) but were delayed by the fact that another plane was on our stand so we didn’t disembark until 10:35. We were in the C block of Terminal 5, which was heaving as a number of long-haul flights had all come in at the same time. I used the transit train to get to arrivals and was quickly through immigration courtesy of the e-gates in about 5 minutes. I headed down to baggage reclaim and was amazed to see that the bags were already coming out, arriving just as my bag turned up on the conveyor belt. As a result I was out of the airport and on the HEX by 11:00am, which is the fastest I’ve ever done it (and that includes domestic and short-haul flights).
All in all, apart from being chastised by cabin crew over my shoes and no one thinking about the delivery of my food, it was a perfectly fine flight and I enjoyed the experience of being on a new plane. However, I do think BA have missed a trick by not trying to improve on some of the design issues with the CW seats (notably the arm rests but also the tables and storage could be worked on). I particularly enjoyed the new IFE, which gives a much better selection (although again, the technology side is not without its irritations) and I thought that the sleeper service in ORD worked well.
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