BACKGROUND The B787 Dreamliner made its British Airways debut on September 1 on the Toronto service, followed by New York Newark on October 1. The B787s are being used to replace BA’s 14 long-haul B767s that are being retired, though this may take until 2017.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow T5 at 1130 for my 1400 departure on BA97. I had already checked in and was using the BA app on my smartphone, which displayed my boarding card. Fast-track security was swift.
THE LOUNGE I have BA gold status so went to the first class lounge. It was extremely busy (I was there on a Monday at lunchtime) but seemed well organised, with a huge choice of food and drink.
BOARDING Flights aren’t called, so one minute departure screens showed no information at all, and we were told to board from gate A10. I arrived just in time to hear I’d missed priority boarding, but was quickly processed so I could get on one of several buses heading to the far side of the airport, where the Dreamliner was parked.
THE SEAT The B787 in this configuration has 214 seats – 35 Club World, 25 World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and 154 economy. Club World is configured 2-3-2 (A-B, D-E-F, J-K) and seats are split across two cabins (rows one to three, then six and seven) and separated by a galley and a washroom. (There is a second toilet at the front of the plane). The footstool at the end of each Club World seat is more supportive than on other BA aircraft. The cabin looks smart and feels airy, not least because of the larger windows. I heard a few people discussing whether they could tell the difference between being on the B787 and the older aircraft. They all agreed they could, and talked of the different pressurisation, the larger windows, and the fact that it is much quieter on board. I’d agree with all of that – it’s a great aircraft.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Go for a backwards-facing window seat (1A or 1K) at the front of the cabin because that way you can look out at the elegantly tapered wings that flex during flight – it’s a beautiful sight and BA is unique in having seats arranged in this yin-yang fashion (1B and 1J face forward). That said, sitting by the window means stepping over the feet of the passenger in the aisle, but this can be avoided by choosing 3A, 3K, 7A and 7K.
I was in one of the single backward-facing seats in the middle of the front row (1E). The width of the aircraft means that centrally located seats have more room than others in Club World, with a side storage compartment. There is also an area above this that can be used to hold a drink. The dividers between the seats also provide a lot of privacy.
THE FLIGHT The crew were excellent – smiley, helpful, chatty and professional. Although the in-flight entertainment (IFE) worked well at first, the in-seat power points were not functioning in any of the seats. After an hour, the problem was solved. However, an hour or so later, there was an announcement that since some seats were having IFE problems, they would have to reset the system and we would all have our entertainment interrupted for 15-20 minutes. When the IFE came back on, the in-seat power stopped working again.
Flight attendants kept going in general good humour, despite admitting it was taking them longer than usual to serve food because the galleys were unfamiliar. (For details of the catering, see the extended version of this review at businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested).
ARRIVAL We arrived 30 minutes early at 1630 only to find our stand was occupied, which meant a 30-minute delay. There was then a ten-minute walk to immigration and a 15-minute wait.
VERDICT Very good overall. There were clearly teething problems – the IFE and in-seat power needed resetting, but the service was good, and the aircraft is well worth juggling your schedule to try, if that is an option.