Tried & Tested

British Airways B747-400 Club World

26 Oct 2009 by Tom Otley

First impressions: I had checked in online for flight BA26 from Hong Kong to London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 early the previous morning. I had a day’s business in Hong Kong, so made use of the excellent in town check-in available at the Airport Express station near to IFC building. I then had the whole day in Hong Kong, with the reassurance that I was both checked-in and my luggage was already ready to be processed. That evening I arrived at the airport at 2145 and quickly made my way to immigration and security, before turning right and walking along to the Qantas and BA lounges.

The lounge: the business class lounge is entered first, with first class being on the far side of it through a separate door. It is very busy at this time of night, with almost all seats taken, and the staff struggling to keep the food and drink options replenished. I’d had a meal that evening so simply had a drink, did some work, and when the flight was called at around 2240 walked down to the gate.

The seat: BA operates only two flights a day to Hong Kong at the moment, down from three, and this was the first of the two that night (the other being at 2340 – though note that the flight times differ between the winter and summer schedules because of prevailing winds).

Unlike the outward journey a few days earlier (click here for the review), this flight was on the High-J version of the B747-400, which means there was more business class – or J class seating – 70 seats in total spread between the main deck and the upper deck as opposed to 52 seats in the mid-J version. The seating configuration in Club World (business) is AB – DEFG – JK, with A, D, G and J forward facing, and B, E, F and K backward facing. For the seat plan, click here.

Which seat should you go for? We ask this question every time we fly Club World, and if you look at the previous ClubWorld reviews, you’ll know there’s no correct answer. In this configuration on the main deck, for instance, 20A and 20K are often mentioned as being good seats, since they are window seats that do not require you to step over anyone to get to the aisle. However you are backward facing in this seat, you are in the last row before premium economy, with the possibility of disturbance from there, and being at the back of the main deck Clubworld, you are close to any families which are normally put here. In fact, this was the case here, with seats 20 DEFG holding a family, including a young baby.

I was on the main deck, in a forward facing aisle seat (19D). The advantage of this seat is that you have direct access to the aisle. The disadvantages are that you have no view out of a window, when the flight attendants serve the person in 19E they lean over you, and when the person in 18E wants to get out, they have to step over your feet. In fact, neither of these was a problem for me on this flight, since I was asleep for most of it and was oblivious to whether any of these things happened.

The flight: Before take off my jacket was taken and I was offered a drink. We took off on time, and shortly after this the meal service started. This wasn’t for me, since I’d eaten only a few hours earlier and was determined to catch up on my sleep after a week in Hong Kong, but the starter choices were: seared tuna with lentil and grape tomato salad and dill mayonnaise dressing or buffalo mozzarella with grilled vegetable antipasto. A fresh seasonal salad then followed, and the main courses were: slow-roasted braised beef with grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes, halibut piccata with tomato sauce served with steamed rice, tortellini with chicken in a béchamel sauce, farfalle pasta with herb cream sauce and chilled main course salad of chorizo, calamari and goat’s cheese. Desserts were passion fruit and white chocolate cheese cake with a passion fruit coulis or a selection of cheese with biscuits or fruit.

The wine menu was the same as on the route out: Champagne: Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top and Cattier Brut (located in the village of Chigny-les-Roses on the Montagne de Reims). Whites:  Zevenwacht Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Rully Premier Cru Les Gresigny 2007, Tamar Ridge, Kayena Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Tasmania and Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2007, Margaret River. Only the first two of these were available. Reds: Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz Grenache 2006, Barossa Valley; Thelema Shiraz 2006 Stellenbosch, Chateau Beaumont 2004, Haut Medoc or Tim Adams Cabernet 2005, Clare Valley.

There is a note on the menu which reads: “We offer a selection of wines from the above list. Please ask your crew to advise you of the choices available on today’s service”, and as before, around half the wines were available.

But enough of notes, it was time to sleep, which is the real reason for having a flat bed. I reclined the seat, pulled up the blanket, fastened my seat belt over it so I wouldn’t be disturbed if there was turbulence, put in ear plugs, lowered the eye mask, and slept for just short of 10 hours, waking for a light breakfast. I had delicious stir-fried mung bean noodles with cicken and vegetables served with shrimp dumpling, pork dumpling and crab row, though there was a choice of pancake with raspberry coulis or a classic English breakfast.

Arrival: We arrived at 0505, took the train over to the main terminal (from Satellite B), was quickly through immigration, but then had a further 15-minute wait for bags. This was strange, because some people had their bags ready for them on the carousel, while the rest had to wait, which caused some groups which had been travelling together to separate even though (I heard them say) they had all checked in together. Anyway, the delay was more worrying than inconvenient, and I was landside by 0540.

Verdict: Excellent. I wanted to be left alone to sleep, and I was. The seat when reclined into a bed is comfy, and on this night flight, there was little disturbance (or turbulence).


Tom Otley

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