With a total of 42 B787s (both the B787-8 and B787-9) destined to be delivered to British Airways, the aircraft will become a mainstay of the airline’s fleet.
It already has eight three-class B787-8s, the first of which debuted in summer 2013.
This review looks at the four-class B787-9, which arrived at the end of September – on this occasion it flew to Austin, a route normally served by the B787-8. The B787-9 will be rostered on the London-Delhi route from October 25.
Flight BA191 to Austin departs London Heathrow daily at 1155 – I arrived at T5 and checked in at 1000 before having a drink in the Concorde Room.
The flight boarded from Gate A18 so it was a short walk and then we had the chance to see the new seat.
The B787-9 is 20 feet longer than the B787-8, allowing BA to add a cabin of eight First seats configured 1-2-1 (A, E-F, K) in addition to 42 Club World, 39 World Traveller Plus and 127 World Traveller (216 in total). I was seated in 1A.
The new First cabin was designed by Forpeople in conjunction with the airline’s in-house team. British supplier Prototrim, which works with Jaguar and Land Rover, developed the soft leather and fabric trim.
There’s much that’s familiar about this new First, including the colour scheme of the cabin, the metallic swoosh (actually called the speedmarque) and the slightly retro look of some of the fixtures and fittings, including the lamps (which are now fixed to the tables, instead of the walls).
Cynics will say this is just rolling out a variation of the existing First, but consistency of experience is important, and BA says it does not want passengers to see noticeable differences in product and “have to learn a new seat”.
BA says the new product has been designed based on feedback from customers who want enough room to spread out but also have their belongings to hand.
The most obvious difference is the higher walls – this nod towards the “suite” concept provides protection from the aisle without doors. I don’t think this is much of a loss as I like interacting with the crew.
A welcome change for shorter passengers is the extendable ottoman, which pulls out so that when you are in take-off or landing position you can rest your feet on it. (Companion dining is no longer possible.)
The ottoman’s design has also been improved to stop it dropping to the floor and causing disturbance to other people.
Feedback showed that heavy-handed passengers slamming doors shut, putting the IFE screen back into place or dropping the table down had a big impact on the experience of neighbouring passengers.
As a result, all of the stowable parts and devices now have “soft closing”. They aren’t completely silent, but they are much more difficult to slam.
Another gain is three new storage spaces and one adapted one (the wardrobe), which is narrow – it would take a suit and trousers, and perhaps a shirt around the one wooden hanger but nothing more.
Items can also be stored under the ottoman, a cupboard with an internal vanity mirror or a compartment beneath the power points (handy for a phone or iPad – mine was fully charged by the end of the flight). There are no overhead lockers above central seat pairs.
Even though this version of the First seat takes up a smaller amount of “real estate” than those on the airline’s B777 and A380 aircraft, I did not feel cramped.
The design is clever, and I’m tempted to compare it to the Tardis in that it is bigger on the inside than the outside – it seems a lot more spacious when you are sitting or lying in the suite than just looking down on it.
The side of the unit offers plenty of surface area to store items – I put my laptop there while I was eating. The improved dining table now slides out from beneath the side table rather than popping out from the top of it, which means you don’t have to move your belongings.
The new First also has updated seat controls. As with First on other BA aircraft, recline is still controlled by a dial (as well as there being preset positions), but additionally, by pre-selecting the light icon, the dial also allows you to manually dim or turn off all the lights individually.
I liked the desk lamp, too. It might not be the most useful of illuminations, but it certainly is atmospheric, and also a touch art deco.
The top-of-the-range Thales IFE system features a good range of movies and entertainment on a 23-inch screen – there’s also the option of displaying the route map on your handset while you watch a film.
Bose noise-cancelling headphones were provided. Still no wifi, though. It can’t be long before BA finally decides it has to offer this, surely?
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Avoid row one, as it is closest to the galley. Seat 1A, where I was sitting, was also next to the washroom.
The choice of window or aisle depends if you are travelling alone or not. Bear in mind there’s no extra storage for window seats in side bins (as in some Club World configurations, for example).
Go for the second row, probably seat 2A or 2K.
We took off on time at 1155. This was the first B787-9 flight for the crew, but they knew what they were doing.
We were offered the following starters: salmon, crab boudin and poached lobster; poached Williams pear salad with Oxford blue, Muscat grapes, macadamia nuts and port and redcurrant dressing; autumn chicken broth with pearl barley; and seasonal salad with honey and mustard or Caesar dressing.
The mains were seared fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with salt beef croquette and spinach pomme purée; seared North Atlantic cod fillet with pistachio and cauliflower couscous; glazed pork belly and popcorn port crackling with cocotte potatoes; and warm Szechuan chicken salad with vegetables and a chilli and soy dressing. I had the last, which was delicious.
There were three types of champagne, including Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle and Marion-Bosser Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut. Among the whites and reds were a 2010 William Fèvre Bougros, Chablis Grand Cru, Burgundy, and a 2008 Château Balestard la Tonnelle, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru Classe, Bordeaux.
Although it was a day flight, I wanted to see what the bed was like for sleeping so I reclined and rested for a couple of hours – it was comfortable, with a well-cushioned mattress, lots of room for turning over and plenty of foot space.
We arrived on time and were disembarked via an airbridge.
This is a thoughtful update of BA’s First product, addressing many of the issues passengers have identified, while making the most of a small space.
Regular First flyers will welcome it, and those hoping for upgrades will enjoy it as well.
- JOURNEY TIME 9 hours
- AIRCRAFT TYPE B787-9
- CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
- SEAT WIDTH 22.5in/57cm, 38in/97cm when flat
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- BED LENGTH 78in/198cm
- PRICE Internet rates for a return First B787-9 flight from London to Delhi in December ranged between £3,865 and £8,190 depending on flexibility.
- CONTACT ba.com