British Airways B747-400 Club World

BACKGROUND On March 25 BA will switch its thrice-daily London-Moscow route to a long-haul service, deploying four-class B747s (on the first daily flight) and three-class B767s (on the other two flights) instead of two-class 767s and A320s – for more information click here. It is the first time the airline will have offered First and Club World on the London-Moscow route, and the shortest flight on which the airline will offer fully-flat beds. Business Traveller was on a preview flight to showcase the new route this week – for a review of the outbound journey from London click here.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Moscow Domodedovo airport at 1640 for my 1805 departure on flight BA873 (note that traffic in Moscow can be terrible so allow plenty of time to get to the airport – it took more than an hour and a half on this Tuesday afternoon). I put my bags through a scanner and proceeded to BA’s check-in zone (desks 59-63, comprising one bag drop, two business and two economy). I was dealt with quickly. There was a dedicated immigration/security section for business class passengers so I proceeded through this. I had my passport checked at immigration, which was quiet, then again just before security, where I had to go through a body scanner. I was airside just after 1700.

THE LOUNGE BA’s lounge is immediately after security and is a bright, spacious venue with wicker chairs, big windows offering runway views, free wifi, hot and cold food, soft and alcoholic drinks, showers, flatscreen TVs and a business area with PCs. There was an announcement that the flight would be delayed by 35 minutes so I grabbed a drink and some nuts and did some work.

BOARDING The flight was called at 1815. Gate 13 was a five-minute walk away downstairs and I joined the priority lane for business class passengers. A queue had built up on the airbridge and I was in my upper deck seat at 1830. I had my coat taken by friendly staff and was offered a welcome drink of champagne, juice or water.

THE SEAT The upper deck of the B747 has five rows of business (60-64) configured 2-2 (A-B, K-J). Window seats A and J face backwards and aisle seats B and K face forwards – as on my outbound flight, I had been allocated aisle seat 64B. For a seat plan click here.

The seat has been reviewed many times before on this site – click here for examples. It is a comfortable seat upholstered in fabric with leather armrests, which meets with a fold-down footstool in front to make a fully-flat bed. It has audio-video on-demand in-flight entertainment (IFE) with a good-size fold-out touchscreen, in-seat power, a fold-down table that slides in and out, a drawer at foot level for your laptop and other items, and a privacy screen to separate you from your neighbour.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Club World on the upper deck of the B747 is a good choice because it is in a 2-2 configuration, rather than 2-4-2, and is spacious with a wide aisle. While I was very comfortable in my aisle seat, I would probably go for a window one given the choice because, from experience, they feel a little more tucked away – upper deck window seats also have an extra storage bin by the wall. Admittedly, with some window seats in Club you would have to climb over the legs of the aisle passenger if they were in bed position (that wouldn’t apply in rows 62 and 64 as they are by the emergency exit and back of the cabin respectively), but on a day flight of this length, you wouldn’t need to worry too much about that.

There are washrooms at the front and back of the cabin, with the galley also at the back, so you might find it a little quieter towards the front of the cabin, though if you are at the back you will get to disembark first.

THE FLIGHT There was a long delay after pushing back as the pilots were waiting for confirmation of the plane’s weight and balance. We took off at 1920. Drinks were served about 20 minutes later, and menus and amenity kits (containing socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and Elemis products) were handed out. About 40 minutes after take-off there was an announcement that there was a problem with the IFE system and it would need to be reset, which took about 20 minutes.

The meal service began about an hour after take-off. The menu stated this was the airline’s new “Height Cuisine” selection designed to maximise taste at altitude: “We’ve been taking a long, hard look at dining and drinking in the air, and our team of chefs has set to work to bring you simple, authentic dishes and flavours that work well at 30,000 feet,” it said.

To start there was a choice of Severn and Why smoked salmon with Royal Belgian Oscietra caviar served with a shot of Russian Standard Imperia or Chase English vodka, or Quickes cheddar mousse with walnut crumble and an orange and beetroot salad. I had the latter and thought the mousse was a little bland but the beets were nice. It was served with a fresh and crunchy green salad. A selection of warm breads were also brought around – I had a nice sun-dried tomato one.

The mains were seared fillet of Herefordshire beef with parmesan crust, celeriac dauphinoise and savoy cabbage, corn-fed chicken with mustard and dill, roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables (I had this and found it tasty), wholemeal pasta with spinach velouté, roasted leeks, squash and pine nuts, or a chilled salad of hot smoked salmon, Jersey Royal potato salad and watercress sauce.

For dessert there was white chocolate and ricotta mousse with fruits of the forest, a selection of fruit and chocolates, or a cheese plate – Bleu d’Auvergne and Barber’s 1833 cheddar with pumpkin seed flatbread and plum chutney. I went for this and thoroughly enjoyed it, accompanying it with a lovely glass of Warre’s 2006 port, having earlier had a Kir Royale made from Taittinger Brut Réserve NV Champagne. The other wines available were Pouilly-Fumé 2010, Domaine Lebrun, Loire; Eos Estate Private Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Paso Robles, California; Chateau Malecasse 2007, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux; and La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast, California.

After eating I switched on the IFE screen and was surprised to see that my journey had more than 14 hours to go, according to the moving map info. Judging that I had somewhat less time than that, I watched half a film before the IFE was switched off prior to landing.

ARRIVAL Having made up considerable time thanks to tailwinds, we touched down at Heathrow T5 at 1840 local time, 20 minutes behind schedule. I was quickly off the plane and my priority-tagged case arrived shortly after I reached baggage reclaim.

VERDICT BA is certainly differentiating itself by offering a premium seat such as this on such a short flight. I didn’t have time to make use of the fully-flat bed but very much enjoyed the food, drink and service.

PRICE The lead-in Club World return fare for the new long-haul service is £1,116.

CONTACT ba.com

Report by Michelle Mannion


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9 − four =

British Airways B747-400 Club World

BACKGROUND On March 25 BA will switch its thrice-daily London-Moscow route to a long-haul service, deploying four-class B747s (on the first daily flight) and three-class B767s (on the other two flights) instead of two-class 767s and A320s – for more information click here. It is the first time the airline will have offered First and Club World on the London-Moscow route, and the shortest flight on which the airline will offer fully-flat beds. Business Traveller was on a preview flight to showcase the new route this week – for a review of the return journey click here.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow T5 at 0700 for my 0840 departure on flight BA872. As I was a guest of the airline, I checked in at the first class desks at the far right-hand end of the terminal. I proceeded through the fast-track lane at security, which didn’t take long to clear, and turned right immediately afterwards into the South Galleries lounges.

THE LOUNGE Much has been written on this site about BA’s lounges at T5 – for more information click here. This morning I had access to the First Galleries lounge – it was spacious and peaceful and I grabbed a couple of pastries and a coffee (hot and cold breakfast items were on offer as well as soft and alcoholic drinks).

BOARDING At 0815 I made my way to gate A18, a couple of minutes away, and boarded immediately, taking the stairs to the upstairs Club World section. Staff were welcoming and I was offered champagne, water or juice.

THE SEAT The upper deck of the B747 has five rows of business (60-64) configured 2-2 (A-B, K-J). Window seats A and J face backwards and aisle seats B and K face forwards – I was in aisle seat 64B. For a seat plan click here.

The seat has been reviewed many times before on this site – click here for examples. It is a comfortable seat upholstered in fabric with leather armrests, which meets with a fold-down footstool in front to make a fully-flat bed. It has audio-video on-demand in-flight entertainment (IFE) with a good-size fold-out touchscreen, in-seat power, a fold-down table that slides in and out, a drawer at foot level for your laptop and other items, and a privacy screen to separate you from your neighbour.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Club World on the upper deck of the B747 is a winner because it is in a 2-2 configuration, rather than 2-4-2, and is nice and spacious with a wide aisle. While I have flown Club World several times, this was the first time I had flown in an aisle seat. I had a very comfortable flight, though would probably go for a window one given the choice because they feel a little more tucked away – upper deck window seats also have an extra storage bin by the wall. Admittedly, with some window seats in Club you would have to climb over the legs of the aisle passenger if they were in bed position (that wouldn’t apply in rows 62 and 64 as they are by the emergency exit and back of the cabin respectively), but on a day flight of this duration, one wouldn’t need to worry unduly about that.

There are washrooms at the front and back of the cabin, with the galley also at the back, so you might find it a little quieter towards the front of the cabin, though if you are at the back you will get to disembark first.

THE FLIGHT We pushed back on time and took off at 0855. Shortly afterwards we were given an amenity kit containing socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and Elemis products (this being such a short flight, I didn’t make use of any of it, though it was a nice touch) a hot towel (very soggy) and a menu.

The meal service started about an hour after take-off. The menu stated this was the airline’s new “Height Cuisine” selection designed to maximise taste at altitude: “We’ve been taking a long, hard look at dining and drinking in the air, and our team of chefs has set to work to bring you simple, authentic dishes and flavours that work well at 30,000 feet,” it said.

To start, the choice was fresh fruit or soused herrings with Royal Belgian Oscietra caviar and mustard potato salad served with a shot of Russian Standard Imperia or Chase English vodka. To get into the Russian spirit I opted for the latter dish – I have to admit that the fish was too strong for me at this time of the morning, and I didn’t manage much of it, but I thought it was generous in size and well presented, and the potato salad was tasty. I also doubted my own sanity with the first sip of the vodka, but it was certainly warming and the rest of it went down somewhat easier. The starter came with a large bowl of fruit compote, yogurt and granola.

The main course was a choice of scrambled eggs with fillet of beef, lamb croquette, mushrooms, tomato and bubble and squeak; cinnamon and apple toasts with blueberry compote and cinnamon butter; a Spanish-style potato omelette with mushrooms, tomato and spinach (I had this and it was enjoyable); or a continental breakfast with beef bresaola, smoked chicken, Bleu d’Auverne and Barber’s 1833 cheddar.

I bypassed the wine list and had a peppermint tea instead. Should I have wanted to indulge still further at this time of the morning, I could have chosen from Taittinger Brut Réserve NV Champagne; Pouilly-Fumé 2010, Domaine Lebrun, Loire; Eos Estate Private Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Paso Robles, California; Chateau Malecasse 2007, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux; or La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast, California. More drinks were offered, along with a selection of warm breads and pastries.

After eating I switched on the IFE screen and was surprised to see that only an hour and a quarter remained of the journey (tailwinds made it shorter than usual). The moving map wasn’t working so I switched on a film, thinking I might watch half of it – in the event the picture was quite dark so I opted to listen to Kate Bush’s new album from the selection of new music releases. Before I knew it we were being offered more hot towels (not so soggy this time) before coming in to land.

ARRIVAL We landed half an hour ahead of schedule at 1610 local time and were off the plane quickly. This being special circumstances, we were led through a VIP immigration channel so I didn’t witness regular immigration.

VERDICT A luxurious way to experience a short flight, with a spacious cabin, fully-flat seat, AVOD entertainment and a high-quality food and drink service. The only shame was that I didn’t really have enough time to make the most of it all.

PRICE The lead-in Club World return fare for the new long-haul service is £1,116.

CONTACT ba.com

Report by Michelle Mannion


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eighteen − five =

British Airways B747-400 Club World

Check-in British Airways’ daily service (BA246) from Sao Paulo to London departs at 1615, with a arrival in London scheduled at 0725 the next day. Note that the flight originates in Buenos Aires, so passengers travelling from Argentina will be able to check-in online and grab the best seats before those departing from Brazil.

The ageing departure terminal of Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International airport could not be more of a contrast to the modern facilities at London’s Heathrow T5 (click here to read the review of the outbound flight). When we checked in, there was just one Club World desk open (although those queuing were waved through to economy and first class desks when they became available). Admittedly, they probably weren’t expecting a large group of nearly 20 people to check in all at once, but the process was nonetheless slow, as was the security check, where there was no fast-track lane. It took over an hour to get airside, compared with five minutes on the outbound journey.

The lounge Directions to the lounges at the airport are very poorly signposted – the majority of our group missed the turn and walked towards the gates, instead of taking a sharp left immediately after security, before the small duty-free shop. BA has its own lounge on the second floor, as do TAM, Delta and Air France. Inside, facilities are adequate, and there is a pleasant terrace at the far end with wicker furniture, where you can watch aircraft land and taxi to their stands – we watched as the BA service touched down at 1445. There is no business centre, but wifi internet access is free. Other facilities include a bank of desks with telephones, several seating areas (one with a flatscreen TV that was turned off), a range of English-language newspapers including The Times, Daily Mail, Telegraph and FT, and a food and beverage area with cold meats, cheese, cakes, fruit, rolls, crackers, a Nescafé coffee machine, and soft and alcoholic drinks.

Boarding The flight was called at 1545, with boarding from Gate 10, around ten minutes’ walk from the lounge. Both the upper and lower cabins of Club World were almost full, and I was directed to seat 18D on the lower deck, where I was offered champagne and juice. Take-off was pretty much on time at 1630, and the captain said the flight was scheduled to take ten hours and 47 minutes, with turbulence expected at about four and a half and five and a half hours in.

The seat For my general comments on the BA Club World seating, see the outbound review here. The major difference between Club World on the upper and lower decks on the B747-400 is the number of seats configured across (2-4-2 on the lower deck compared with 2-2 on the upper deck). The result is that the middle two seats of the middle block (E and F) face the same way as each other, rather than opposite ways as the other seats do throughout the rest of the cabin. This is great if you are travelling with a friend or partner, but a little intimate if you are sitting next to a stranger, as the privacy divider between the two is far less effective than the electronic screen between the alternating seats. For a seatplan of this aircraft click here.

Which seat to choose? There are two Club World cabins on the lower deck of the High-J version of the B747-400 – two rows of seats to the left as you enter before first class, and four rows to the right before World Traveller Plus. My seat, 18D, was on the aisle in the second cabin, and having travelled in a window seat on the outbound journey I much preferred the enclosed feeling of the former, and also missed the side storage bins. My preference on the lower deck would be the window seats on either side, followed by the centre seats if travelling with a partner, and probably an aisle seat if not. I would also opt to sit upstairs if possible rather than on the lower deck, as there is a more private feel in “the bubble”.

The flight Soon after take-off a member of the crew announced that there was an issue with the in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems of some passengers, so everyone’s would be restarted to try and resolve the problem. This took around 30 minutes, but once completed the system worked fine for the rest of the flight. I settled down to watch a movie, by which time my order had been taken for the dinner service.

Food and drink

The starters were Brazilian-style shrimp, crab and coconut cocktail, and oven-roasted balsamic tomato and Mozzarella salad. The passenger next to me ordered the latter, as had I, but I had managed to get the last one, with the steward saying that only five portions of the salad had been put on board.

The main courses were: grilled fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, buttered carrots, asparagus and jacket potatoes with sour cream and chives; Makhanwala-style mild chicken curry with savoury rice; gratinated roast aubergine slices with Parmesan and tomato sauce; mushroom risotto with cherry tomato, blanched peas and buttered carrot; and a chilled salad of potato and fresh salmon with sour cream, chives and lemon.

Desserts were a choice of butterscotch cheesecake with crème anglaise; Gorgonzola and Emmental cheese; and a selection of fruit.

The champagnes were Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut and Ayala brut Majeur NV.

The white wines were: A to Z Oregon pinot gris, 2007; Cono Sur Vision sauvignon blanc, 2008; Terra do Gargalo, 2007; and Château de Rully, 2007. The red wines were: Montes Alpha syrah, 2006; Château Bournac, 2005; La Haute Marone, 2007; and J Lohr, Los Osos merlot, 2006.

The Club kitchen is located on the lower deck between the two Club World cabins and offers sandwiches, wraps, cakes, chocolate, fruit and soft drinks.

After dinner, I played the highly addictive Who Wants to be a Millionaire? game on the IFE system, before settling down for what turned out to be a fairly restless sleep, although, to my knowledge, the predicted turbulence didn’t happen. I was woken by the lights being switched on and the captain cheerily announcing “Welcome to the Bay of Biscay!”, before breakfast was served, which included a choice of a fruit smoothie, fresh fruit, greek yoghurt, a cooked English, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, and American-style pancakes with caramelised bananas. As on the outbound journey, the basket of warm pastries was excellent.

Arrival We arrived on time but it took a little while to get to the stand at the satellite terminal T5B as there was a queue. There was no wait for IRIS at immigration and it worked first time.

As I was heading in to work after the flight, I decided to use the arrival facilities in the main terminal. These are extensive, particularly the shower block, which is configured in several figures of eight, with a high-tech computer system telling the receptionist which cubicles are free and which are being cleaned, etc. There is plenty of space inside to get changed, but the seal around the bottom of my shower was not completely watertight so by the time I got out half the bathroom was flooded. (Thankfully, I had put my suitcase by the door, and the water had not reached that far.) Other facilities include a good range of hot and cold breakfast options, plenty of newspapers, and an Elemis spa.

Verdict Ground services at Sao Paulo could do with an overhaul, but the service on board was excellent, as were the arrivals facilities at T5. The forward/backward configuration of the Club World seat may not be to everyone’s liking, but as a fully-flat bed it still gets my vote ahead of any airline offering an angled lie-flat product.

Contact ba.com

Mark Caswell


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  • Am I the only one stupid enough to think that if BA offers on-line check in for an airport that I can then proceed through security with my printed boarding pass?

    I arrived at GRU last week for the trip home to London clutching my boarding pass. … but no, I couldn’t go through as I needed a stamp from BA on the baording pass and no, the BA person already at the desks couldn’t give me one, I had to wait for the desks to open and check in like everybody else …. Thank you Diners Club for having a nearby lounge not airside.

    Couldn’t BA at least tell you that you still need to report for checkin so you might as well stay at the hotel until nearer the time?

    Mike

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4 + four =

British Airways B747-400 Club World

Check-in British Airways’ daily service BA247 to Sao Paulo departs at 2145, with a scheduled arrival of 0515 the next day, before continuing as the same flight number to Buenos Aires, landing at 0950. I was travelling with a large group under one ticket, and so was unable to check in online, or indeed change my pre-assigned seat when checking in.

Heathrow T5 was quiet when I arrived on a Wednesday evening, with no queues at any of the Club World check-in desks, located to the south end of the terminal. A helpful member of staff informed me that the flight would probably be leaving from the satellite building, but as I was early she suggested I make use of the main South Galleries lounges. There was only one person ahead of me in the fast-track security queue, and I was airside no more than five minutes after arriving at the airport, which I thought was very impressive.

The lounge Regular T5 business travellers will be familiar with “millionaires’ door” located just after security, which whisks first class passengers and other VIPs straight into the Concorde Room. The other lounges are also situated in this area, but  passengers are forced to turn left after security, past Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, down the escalators, past several duty-free shops, back up an escalator, past the shimmering wave art installation, reception for the first class lounge and Elemis spa, then up another escalator, and past the horse/lampshade installation, before finally arriving at the business class lounge, which is not far from where they started by security. It’s a bizarre route that can only have been created to make passengers visit other parts of the terminal in the hope of persuading them to part with cash to help pay for the £4.3 billion building.

Having said all that, the lounge is a very impressive space, with a huge choice of seating areas and plush dècor designed by Osborne and Little. It was my first visit, barring a pre-opening tour nearly 18 months ago, and at first I was somewhat overwhelmed as to where to sit to make the most of the facilities without having to walk too far for everything. I opted for a seating area to the right of the entrance, by the larger of two business centres, just past the hot and cold self-service buffet, which was offering dishes including chilli con carne, mushroom stroganoff, soup, warm rolls, sandwiches and salads. There are also a couple of self-service bars, as well as a small cinema showing US Open tennis. There is free wifi throughout. Club World passengers are entitled to a free treatment and use of the showers at the Elemis spa, although both have to be booked.

Boarding As predicted by the check-in staff, the flight was departing from Gate 48 in the satellite building T5B, so at about 2100 I made my way downstairs to the transit shuttle, and was able to board the B747-400 when I got to the gate.

BA uses the High-J version of its B747-400 aircraft on this route (click here for the seatplan), meaning that there are 50 business class seats on the lower deck across two cabins, plus a further 20 on the upper deck, where I was sitting in seat 63A. Both the upper and lower decks were pretty full, although I was travelling in a group of nearly 20 passengers that pretty took up most of the upper deck, which will have skewed the normal load factor somewhat.

As we were taxiing to the runway there was a loud bang from somewhere near the back of the plane, and the captain announced that as they hadn’t been able to ascertain the cause of the noise, we would have to return to the stand so as it could be checked, which he estimated would put us around two hours behind schedule. During the wait, the in-flight entertainment (IFE) was turned on, and passengers were permitted to use their mobile phones.

Thankfully, the delay was shorter than expected – it turns out there was an unsecured gas canister in the hold – and the captain was at pains to point out that its contents was not hazardous. We eventually took off about 75 minutes late, at 2300.

The seat Despite having worked for Business Traveller for almost four years, this was my first flight in Club World (in either the old or new incarnations), so I have no first-hand experience on which to base a judgement as to whether the new version is better than the old, but my initial thoughts were of a functional, rather than flashy, design.

Much has been said about the alternating forward- and backward-facing seats (2-2 on the upper deck). Personally, I didn’t have an issue with this, although I  was travelling with the passenger sat opposite me so we were happy to leave the divider down and chat during the flight. Had I been opposite a stranger, I might have felt more inclined to put the divider up after take-off, particularly as every now and then you can’t help but catch a smile or a grimace from the passenger while they are watching a film. It’s also worth pointing out that even if you do put the divider up, crew will often lower it when taking food and drink orders. One other point to note is that the divider is operated by a button on the top, not by manually pulling it up, as I and several other passengers discovered.

A handy feature of the seat is the laptop drawer, which I used to store all of  my bits and pieces such as mobile phone, wallet, passport, and amenity kit (Elemis-branded, with the usual contents such as toothbrush, ear plugs, socks, eye mask and moisturisers). My window seat had the added bonus of the side storage bins, which easily fitted my laptop bag, plus the pillow and blanket that I didn’t immediately need. The seat itself was perfectly comfortable, both in the sitting position, the Z-shaped position, and when reclined to fully-flat. In terms of width, I didn’t feel cramped, although at six-foot tall I could have done with another couple of inches of length. Downsides for me were the flimsy table – almost impossible to work at unless you jam something between it and the armrest – and the lack of a bottle holder or separate drinks tray.

Which seat to choose? Again, I do not have enough experience of Club World cabins to make a fully informed decision. I understand that certain individual seats have up to three or four inches of extra legroom due to layout anomalies, but this is difficult to establish simply by having a wander around the dimly lit cabin. What I would say is that I was happy to be by the window, for the extra storage, the more enclosed feeling, and for less noise from passing crew and passengers. It was also good to have a row between me and the staff galley at the back of the upper deck, although seat 64A behind me did benefit from not having the shell of another seat after its footrest, so a tall person would be able to hang his/her feet over the edge of the bed.

The flight My headset had no padding on one side, and this was also the case for the passenger next to me, but both were quickly replaced by a member of the crew when requested. The IFE worked faultlessly – something I have heard is not always the case, and indeed was not the case on my return flight. There was a good selection of TV programmes and movies including Star Trek, Che Part One and Two, and Angels and Demons. As this was a night flight, I had decided not to do any work, but there is in-seat power for those needing it.

Food and drink

The evening meal consisted of prawn cocktail or Parmesan panna cotta with chargrilled courgette to start, although the latter had run out by the time it got to me.

The mains were: fillet of beef with truffle mash and mushroom fricassee; roast chicken with bread sauce and roasted vegetables; Staffordshire oatcake crêpe with sun-dried tomatoes and cream cheese with pesto couscous; and a cold salad of thyme-marinated breast of chicken, sautéed apple and sage vinaigrette. I opted for Welsh line-caught sea bass with lemon butter sauce, minted peas and roast new potatoes, which to be honest, was fairly bland.

Desserts were a choice of apple and cinnamon pie with custard; Barber’s 1833 and Blacksticks White cheese with savoury biscuits; fruit and chocolates.

The champagnes were Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut and Ayala brut Majeur NV. The white wines were: A to Z Oregon pinot gris, 2007; Cono Sur Vision sauvignon blanc, 2008; Terra do Gargalo, 2007; and Château de Rully, 2007. The red wines were: Montes Alpha syrah, 2006; Château Bournac, 2005; La Haute Marone, 2007; and J Lohr, Los Osos merlot, 2006.

The Club Kitchen is on the lower deck and offers sandwiches, wraps, cakes, chocolate, fruit and soft drinks. On the upper deck, there was a small tray by the top of the stairs with fruit and a smaller selection of snacks.

Having transformed the seat into the bed (it slides down electronically to meet a fold-down ottoman footrest) I was able to get a fairly good night’s sleep before being woken for breakfast about one hour before landing. Among the choices were a fruit smoothie, fresh fruit, greek yoghurt, a cooked English breakfast, Spanish-style potato omelette and a cream cheese blini. I thought the best part of the breakfast was the basket of hot pastries, croissants and muffins, which I returned to several times.

Arrival We touched down at 0645, around one and a half hours late, and were quickly disembarked. The queue for immigration was swift, although when it came to me, the officer had to query my passport with her supervisor, although I never found out why. By the time I was through, the bags belonging to the people I was travelling with were on the carousel.

Verdict Superb check-in facilities and lounges at T5, and a good fully-flat business class product. Service in-flight was excellent and the food was satisfactory.

Contact ba.com

Mark Caswell


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  • Recently flew to San Francisco on the upper deck of Club World. I agree with Mark’s comments re the seat. I have to say that I too prefer the window seat due to it feeling rather more private. Don’t particularly like the seat layout though- when is the ‘proper time’ to raise the privacy divider when sitting opposite a stranger?

  • I have no compunction in raising the privacy divider; I am sure that like AlanMitchell my seat mate is also keen to have the divider up at the earliest opportunity.

    Once the Safety Demo is complete (for which I think the divider must be down) I just smile at my seatmate and ask “hope you don’t mind if I raise the divider” and up it goes.

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British Airways B747-400 Club World

British Airways Club World (Hongkong-London)

BACKGROUND:
British Airways’ (BA) re-engineered Club World seats were launched in the summer of 2007 on this busy route.

I was eager to experience this latest major tweak, not having flown BA’s Business Class for a number of years, and only remembering the first generation of flat beds with their quaint fan-seat divider. The seating is available on BA’s 57-strong fleet of Boeing B747s and 44 B777s.

CHECK IN:
I had checked in online and printed out my boarding pass in the afternoon, so I was not overly stressed about rushing to the airport for flight BA26 at 11.05pm. I arrived at Terminal 1 before 9.30pm. After using the Fast Bag Drop service, I headed straight for Gate 17.

THE LOUNGE:
BA offers its premium customers at Hongkong airport a lounge on level seven, which is shared with passengers of Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Northwest and Qantas. It was full house, but I managed to snag a seat. However, I didn’t stay very long as I had to shop for books which I was going to give away as presents during my business trip in Berlin.

BOARDING:
I was waved right through to a cabin that was packed. There seemed to be several families with young children headed for the UK that night.

THE SEAT:
BA’s B747-400s come in two configurations, mid-J and high-J, depending on the number of Business Class seats onboard (52 or 70). Flight BA26 was a mid-J, which meant the lower deck Club World ran in 2-4-2 layout (AB-DEFG-JK), and the upper deck is 2-2 (AB-JK).

As all the window seats had already been taken up by the time I checked in online, I went for 17D, an aisle seat in the first-row four-seat cluster. The rear-facing seats on my right were occupied by a couple. As we settled our belongings, the lady sitting next to me and I smiled briefly at each other, after which she promptly drew up the milky white opaque screen obviously wanting instant privacy, which I did myself.

The seat controls are very user friendly, and there is a navigation guide. I studied this carefully, discovering the wonderful laptop locker at the bottom. It was my misfortune that the power socket wasn’t working, so I had to forego any plans of catching up on office backlog. The entertainment menu was extensive.

I had a problem with this particular shell-seat design as I found the “wings” that come up to about the head area creating some claustrophobia. But that could just have been a personal bugbear.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Usually, I don’t mind sitting along the aisle, except with the layout of this Club World cabin, 17D has no seat in front of it and leaves the occupant exposed to the comings and goings to the washroom and galley. To serve the person sitting in the centre section, the flight attendant always entered what I considered “my space” to hand the tray over the privacy screen to the passenger. I know she had a lot on her hands, but a simple “excuse me”, even just once, would have been greatly appreciated.

The best seats for cocooning are still those by the windows, which are all rear-facing.

THE FLIGHT:
Dinner’s spring onion and tomato terrine appetiser and the pear and macadamia nut crumble with vanilla sauce were yummy, making me want seconds. Be sure to have the tart fruit smoothie in the morning.

ARRIVAL:
Thirty minutes behind schedule but it wasn’t a big deal.

VERDICT:
Overall, an outstanding product with great conveniences that were easy to figure out.

PRICE:
Various promotions on offer.

CONTACT:
www.ba.com

British Airways Club World (London-Hongkong)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
Heathrow’s new Norman Foster-designed Terminal 5, which I didn’t manage to experience a few days earlier arriving from Hongkong, features a futuristic design that makes you feel you’re in another millennium and not the present one. (Beam me up, Scotty!)

CHECK IN:
My Lufthansa flight from Dusseldorf arrived at T3, and from there, I took the train to T5. Using the new and lighter trolleys, it wasn’t as tortuous a walk than if they had kept the old models, which are still in use in the other terminals. Can airport management please do the world a favour and improve this service? I used one of the many check-in kiosks and moved on to security check, where despite a long queue did not take as long  as I feared.

THE LOUNGE:
The Galleries in Terminal 5B is for the use of First, Club World or Club Europe and Silver and Gold Executive Club customers. At 5.30pm, when I entered, I didn’t find too much of a crowd but that would build up a bit later.

One large room, sectioned into different activity areas, I wandered into the centre and plonked down my belongings on one of several divans. The two female staff, stationed by the food counter, were not particularly helpful when I went to pick up some snacks, so I did my own thing. (Were they, perhaps, stationed there to stop overloaders, I wondered.)

With time to spare before boarding for flight BA31 at 8.25pm, I took a shower and surfed the net at the W and E (Work and Entertainment) corner. Warned that announcements wouldn’t be made, I left about 30 minutes before the boarding time of 8.05pm, even picking up some attractive Jo Malone toiletries along the way.

BOARDING:
Again no queues for Club World.

THE SEAT:
As I had not checked in online, I made do with what I was given: seat 61B, another aisle seat in the upper deck. However, I moved to 61J, allowing a male passenger to sit beside his partner who was in 61A.

This time, there was power in the socket enabling me to finish some outstanding tasks, as well as watch two films, the hilarious Burn After Reading and the poignant I’ve Loved You for So Long.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
There was relatively not much activity in this section as there was on the lower deck. However, the sound of the attendants’ shoes on the floor was a bit distracting, especially when lights were out and things in the cabin were still. I encountered the same problem the first time I was assigned a seat here. The earplugs I always bring with me helped a lot.

THE FLIGHT:
I didn’t expect the Chicken and Cashew Stir-Fry mains to be spicy but I polished it off along with the tangy Lemon and Lavender Tart.

ARRIVAL:
Uneventful.

VERDICT:
Another great ride.

Margie T Logarta


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British Airways B747-400 Club World

First impressions
I checked in the night before this Friday night flight, which is a busy
time for flights out of Hong Kong so there was little choice of seats.
As well as dropping luggage at the airport you can drop it at the
Airport Express Terminal at Central, which I chose to do. There was no
queue here and I was quickly on the train to the airport. I arrived at
2100, which was very early for my 2345 flight. I noticed that BA’s
check-in desks were equally quiet before I cleared immigration and
security.

The lounge The BA/Qantas lounge is
immediately to the right as you leave security. The lounge is spacious
and feels even more so as it is open with no roofs and one side is made
up of glass walls looking down at the departure gates. The lounge has
magazines and newspapers, TVs and computer terminals. Wifi is provided
by BT Openzone. Drinks and hot and cold snacks (such as Shanghai-style
pork noodles or rice with scallops) are offered and showers are
available.

Boarding Boarding started at 2305.
Cabin crew took my jacket, passed out the Molton Brown amenity kits and
offered a choice of newspapers. A glass of champagne, orange juice or
water was offered. We left the gate at midnight and were airborne 22
minutes later.

The seat The Club World seat is
the reason to travel in business class with BA. It was the original
flat bed and has had some refinements since it was launched a few years
ago, including a larger pillow, firmer mattress and thicker blanket.
Seat pitch on this B747 is 183cm and width 51cm, with seats configured
2-4-2. While it is not the largest bed, it is still good; however,
broad passengers (such as me) do need to be able to sleep on their
side. We must wait until 2006 to find out what the rumours about
further product innovation will bring.

The seat
comes with laptop power, personal light and is adjustable, with a foot
stool which later forms the base of the bed. There is also a privacy
screen between seats, which are required as next-door seats are fixed
facing each other. BA’s in-flight entertainment system is the same in
Club World as in premium economy with the addition of a choice of
magazines in the cabin racks.

The flight The impact of the catering dispute was now reducing but things were not back to normal. Service started with an almost
full bar service including champagne and a choice of good wines. There
were no menus so crew had to explain food and wine choices to each
passenger. There was a choice of starter (seafood or tomato and
halloumi salad). The main courses were mushroom tagliatelle, cod or
chicken in oyster sauce, with cheese and biscuits and dessert to
follow. The quality was acceptable but not yet back to BA’s normal
service. Breakfast was also far from BA’s typical offering and included
a mixture of sandwiches (chicken, cheese and prawn), cheese and
biscuits, fruit salad and chocolates. My stomach could not quite cope
with this mixture at 4am.

Arrival
Before landing the crew handed out leaflets about the BA arrivals
lounge. At Terminal 1, this is on the departures level near premium
check-in. Facilities include showers, spa, breakfast/refreshment bar as
well as many of the normal lounge facilities. BA also has lounges at
Terminal 4 and at Gatwick North. We landed at 0545 some 10 minutes late
and arrived at the gate soon afterwards. I cleared immigration in about
10 minutes and waited a further 10 for my bag. As this was Terminal 1
and there are few long-haul flights, the airport was relatively quiet.

Overall verdict
Premium economy provides larger seats and wider armrests than economy,
which is worth the extra cost if you value comfort and the space to
work. In business, the flat bed and improved product make a real
difference and allow you get some decent sleep. The catering dispute
during my flight meant it was not the usual BA experience, but the
smiling and cheerful crew were some compensation for this.

Prices Return fares from London to Hong Kong in business class are £3,509 and in premium economy £1,902.

Julian Gregory


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