Tried & Tested

British Airways B747-400 Club World

24 Mar 2009 by Tom Otley

FIRST IMPRESSIONS I had checked in online for my 2155 departure for Hong Kong from London’s Terminal 5 on the morning of departure. I arrived at T5 by public transport around 2030 and after dropping off my bag at the Fast Bag Drop (which lived up to its name) I was quickly through security and then made my way over to  the Galleries Lounge at Satellite B via the transit shuttle, since the flight was already showing as Gate B32. The lounge was reasonably busy on Sunday evening, and I had a few snacks and caught up on some work before going down to the gate at around 2120.

BOARDING There was a fast track queue for business and first class passengers. Once on board my jacket was taken and champagne, orange juice and water offered, along with a hot towel shortly after take-off.

THE SEAT BA has two configurations of its B747-400 fleet, known as mid-J and High J depending on the number of J Class (business class) seats on board (either 52 or 70). This flight was on a mid-J configuration, so on the main deck Club World is in rows 17-20 in a 2-4-2 configuration (AB – DEFG – JK), so 32 seats. It then continues on the Upper Deck with another 20 seats. To see a seatplan, click here.

I was in row 17, the first row of the cabin on the lower deck, and in one of the centre seats, facing backward. Speaking about this row firstly, I’d say that the best seats are those facing backwards, namely the window seats and the two centre seats (so 17A, 17D, 17F and 17K). These are all rear facing, which at the front of the cabin is a good thing, since the forward facing seats are all on the aisle, and all face the galley, from which there’s a fair amount of both noise and light disturbance, plus people walking forward to use the washrooms or the Club Kitchen (see below).

Other thoughts on this cabin include: avoid row 20 centre seats, since the staggered shape of the cabin means that these are almost into economy, albeit with a curtain and bulkhead wall separating the two, and that if you want unimpeded access to the aisle, probably 20A and 20K are the two to go for (both rear facing window seats), though again, they are adjacent to the 3-4-3 economy cabin, probably have a bassinet attached to the other side of the thin wall, and your view out of the window is blocked by the wing.

Most interestingly, since I was travelling in a centre seat for the first time in a while, there’s no doubt that this particular seat (17F) was a few inches shorter when in the bed position, than other Club World seats I’ve flown in recently. I checked this with the flight attendant, and she confirmed that there were varying lengths, and looking at the seats it’s clear that there’s nothing stopping the configuration from varying a few inches, since how the length of the seat depends, ultimately, on the space between the seats, and this can be varied without the ottoman seat which lowers to make up the foot of the bed altering in length. In fact I also thought my seat didn’t go quite flat, just a few degrees off it. That said, it was around the 6 feet length quoted by BA (the 6 foot 6 inch measurement sometimes given is for the seat in a Z position. So perhaps some seats are longer than the quoted length, in which case, hats off to BA for not over selling it.

The centre seats are the ones to choose if travelling with a friend, but it’s a while since I’ve flown in one of these with someone I don’t know next to me, and it took some getting used to. I plugged in my laptop, wedged the blanket between the arm of the seat and the underneath of the table so I could work without the table bouncing up and down, and after 10 minutes the power was switched on brightening my screen. Just then, suddenly the divider between 17F and the neighbouring 17G aisle seat came crashing down when the flight attendant pressed the release button. This then proved to be broken, so we were left facing one another through the rest of the flight.

THE FLIGHT The meal choice for the starter was seared scallops with fennel and pesto or puy lentil salad with coriander. The main courses were lamb cutlets with paloise sauce; chicken and cashew stir fry with char sui sauce and jasmine rice; ricotta and spinach cannelloni with lemon thyme and Stilton sauce; or a “Well Being in the Air” chilled salad of herring and potatoes with capers, caraway seeds and garlic dressing. The Club Kitchen choice included snack salads, sandwiches, filled rolls and wraps, fresh fruit salads and fruit smoothies or juices, plus a choice of luxury cakes, crisps and chocolate.

Available with the meals, and before and after them, were a selection of wines. Whites were Rosenvale Unoaked Semillon 2006, Barossa Valley and Sin Palabras Albarino 2007, Rias Baixas. Red were The Hedonist Shiraz 2005, McLaren Vale and Crozes-Hermitage La Petite Ruche 2007, M Chapoutier. The champagne was Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. I should note that the wine selection on the trolley didn’t wholly correspond to this listing.

Around midnight I reclined the seat and slept for about six hours. Shortly afterwards it was time for breakfast: fruit juice or fruit smoothie of blackberry, banana and honey and fresh fruit or Greek yoghurt with apricot and blueberry compote and main courses, followed by English breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, Cumberland sausage, sautéed mushrooms and tomato; tomato omelette with rosti potatoes and sautéed mushrooms; or waffles with apricot compote. Herbal teas included peppermint, blackcurrant, camomile with honey and green tea with jasmine.

ARRIVAL We landed on time at Hong Kong International airport and after queuing for 20 minutes at immigration, my bag was already on the carousel.

VERDICT A good flight, staff very confident and assured, and dealing with any problems that came up. If all centre seats prove to be shorter, I will start choosing window seats on the main deck, but it might be only row 17 so I will try a few more flights before deciding.


Tom Otley

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