Tried & Tested

British Airways B747-400 Club World

18 Mar 2010 by Tom Otley

FIRST IMPRESSIONS I had checked in for the 2025 BA031 departure to Hong Kong, before arriving at London Heathrow T5 on the Piccadilly Line at 1900. I dropped off my bag and went through fast track security where there were only two people ahead of me. From there I walked through to the lounge and waited until details of the flight were shown on the screen.

THE LOUNGE I have a gold card with BA (a gift from a frequent flying friend) and so was in the First class lounge, which wasn’t crowded this Sunday evening. I didn’t have long to enjoy the Lanson champagne available however, since on the screen the flight showed as departing from Satellite B, so I took the escalators down to the shuttle train and went across, arriving just before the flight started to board at 1945.

THE SEAT On this Hong Kong flight BA operates a B747-400, which has two Club World cabins, on the main deck and the upper deck. This was a mid-J configuration of the B747-400 which has 52 J class (business class seats) as opposed to the high-J configuration which has 70 seats, all in a 2-4-2. On the upper deck of both, the configuration is 2-2 (AB-JK). Click here for a seatplan of the B747-400 mid-J.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? For a change I was on the Upper Deck, in an aisle seat, 63B. Although on the face of it this is an exposed seat, being both aisle and just in front of the emergency exit, in fact I liked it for its immediate access to the aisle (which is much wider than the aisle on the main deck). Clearly the best seats are the rear facing 62 A and K because they are window seats which are private, but also have access to the aisle without stepping over the feet of the person immediately inside (ie: those in B or J). It’s not hard to see why many regular flyers in CW on the B747 opt for the upper deck.
Disadvantages of aisle seats are the relative lack of storage space – the overhead lockers are much smaller than on the main deck and only the window seats have the use of the side lockers. On the main deck there’s also the chance of being knocked as people, or the trolley – go up and down the aisle, but with the wider aisle on the upper deck this is less of a problem. There are washrooms at both ends of the cabin and for that reason I would avoid row 60 and 65.

THE FLIGHT We departed on time, and I listened with interest to the safety talk which said, amongst other things, that we shouldn’t fall asleep and leave our laptops powering up using the in-seat power, something I have done from time to time when the battery is low.
The food choice was a little strange on this flight. The starters were a choice of smoked organic sturgeon with blini and crème fraiche or tomato and mozzarella terrine with white gazpacho sauce. I didn’t fancy either of those and so made do with the fresh seasonal salad with vinaigrette. The main courses were beef rendang; Vineet Bhatia’s chicken tikka masala with lemon and cashew pilaf; spinach and ricotta cannelloni and chilled main course salad with lemon infused salmon. I went for the beef which was quite tough, though reasonably tasty. Dessert was mocha cheese cake, Barber’s 1833 and Blacksticks White cheese served with savoury biscuits, a selection of fruit or chocolates.

The wines on this flight were white: Le Meridiane Pinto Grigio 2008, Valdadige, Italy; Lovivalo 2009 Rueda, Spain; Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, South Australia; Alexanderfontein Sauvignon Blanc, Ormonde Estate, South Africa. (The pinot grigio and the Riesling were the ones available).
Reds: Saint-Joseph 2006, Cave Saint-Desirat, Rhone; Ermita de San Felices 2007 Crianza, Rioja, La Puerta Malbec Reserva 2008, Famatina Valley. Argentina or Montes Cabernet Sauvignon/ Carmenere 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile.
By the time service had finished I was tired and so reclined my bed and wait to sleep – as previously noted, it is quiet on the top deck and there were no disturbances that I noticed for the next seven hours. I woke about two hours before landing and had breakfast. This was a choice of chilled fruit juice or a fruit smoothie of raspberry and oatmeal, fresh fruit or Greek yoghurt with apricot and blueberry compote (I had the Greek yoghurt which was tasty). For the main it was a choice of English breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, Cumberland sausage, sautéed mushrooms and tomato, Spanish style potato omelette or chicken congee. I don’t know why but I chose the congee and it was too salty and spicy for me, with a nasty aftertaste, though not much of one because I only had two mouthfuls.

ARRIVAL We arrived about 15 minutes early into Hong Kong, and were quickly disembarked using two doors on the main deck. If you are in a hurry to get off the aircraft then the upper deck isn’t for you since we eventually got down the stairs as the economy passengers were filing out. The bags arrived 25 minutes after landing (so five minutes after we had cleared immigration).

VERDICT Good service, and a very good night’s sleep.

Tom Otley

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