Today (March 5, 2014): British Airways Club World (business class) in Boeing 747-400 from LHR to PHX.
UPDATE: I published a more recent British Airways 747 Business Class review, including youtube clip & lounge review, which you can read here: British Airways Club World (business class) in Boeing 747-400 from LHR to SFO (Upper Cabin).
On February 21th 2014, I flew Business Class in a Boeing 747-400 of British Airways (BA) from London (LHR) to Phoenix (PHX). BA offers a pretty solid and identical Business Class product on all of its long-haul fleet (with the exception of its aging Boeing 767 fleet). But while BA’s Business Class (dubbed Club World) raised the bar for Business Class worldwide a decade ago with the introduction of the first fully flat seat, it is now outclassed by many of its competitors. Nevertheless, the overall experience was good and very British, albeit it was a culinary disaster in my opinion.
I have to confess that I like BA a lot, especially its crew. While being a frequent flyer (One World Emerald status), I am still a little uneasy and anxious when flying. What really helps is that BA not only has an inflight video to ease nervous flyers (trailer), but also that their professional and friendly crew always uses the exact same routine for passenger communications. For example, the flight crew always talks over the intercom to the passengers before take-off and 40 minutes before arrival (no matter how short the duration of the flight is), and the cabin crew always addresses the passengers following their flight crew colleagues. Somehow, this predictable routine (often lacking with other airlines) makes me feel a lot more comfortable.
British Airways features in my top 10 list of best airlines for longhaul Business Class.
- Trip: LHR-PHX
- Airline: British Airways
- Aircraft: 747-400
- Flight Number: 288
- On time departure: yes (3.05 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (6:40 pm)
- Miles: 5,271
- Flight time: 10:15
- Seat: 62K (upper deck)
- Class: business (D)
In this review (below the slideshow):
- Business Class cabin layout
- Business Class seat
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory, WiFi, entertainment, views)
- My verdict (score)
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1. THE BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
The innovative “Ying/Yang” seat plan is unique to British Airways: window and middle seats face backwards, while aisle seats face forwards. Because of this unique concept, you may have to jump over other passenger’s feet to reach the aisle when seated in a backward facing seat. On the lower deck of the 747, the seats have a classic 2-4-2 layout (similar to what is found on BA’s 777 fleet). On the upper deck, there are only 20 seats with a 2-2 layout, so there is more space for fewer passengers and it will feel like flying in your own private cabin. I like the privacy and quiet atmosphere of BA’s 747 upper deck so much that I still prefer it over the more flashy business class products of other carriers’ single-decked planes. I hope that BA will keep the old bird flying for many more years to come.
For a seat map of the BA 747, click here. Note that there are 2 seating versions of the BA 747, but the layout on the upper deck is similar in both versions.
2. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
Regardless of the seat plan, all Club World seats offer the same degree of comfort, with a seat pitch of 73 inches (193 cm) and a seat cushion width of 20 inches (50 cm). The angle of maximum seat recline is 180 degrees, and the overall length of seat when fully reclined (and when tilting the separate foot rest) is a 6ft (183cm) lie flat bed. Next to the seat, you can find the seat controls, the entertainment controls, a reading light and a power port. The private entertainment screen is rather small (9 inches or 22 cm) and swings out from the side of the private cabin suite. It also tilts up and down, so watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is perfectly possible.
How to choose the best BA business class seat ?
- Upper deck atmosphere is far superior to that of lower deck, so choose an upper deck seat.
- Window seats are more private (and in addition, have more storage space on the upper deck).
- The “honeymoon” center seats on the lower deck, where you’re basically seated as close to the person next to you as you would be in economy, are great if you’re traveling with someone you want to be that close to, though it would be downright awkward when you end up next to a stranger in that configuration.
- Seats 62A, 62K and 64A on the upper deck are the single best seats since they are the only window seats in the 747 where you will not have to jump over the feet of other passengers (direct aisle access) and they offer more leg room.
- 64A (my seat for the flight) also has direct aisle access and more leg room, but it is located next to the lavatories, so this may bother some because of the extra noise (it did not bother me, but it was a day flight after all).
Each seat comes with a rather dull blanket, a small and not-so-comfortable pillow, and an upgraded amenity kit. The latter is a drawstring bag (one for men and one for women) that is designed to double up as a shoe or lingerie and underwear bag and includes Elemis products to refresh, revive and rehydrate, created in travel sizes exclusively for British Airways customers. The men’s bag includes Skin Soothe Shave Gel (7ml), a Pro-Collagen Marine Cream (5ml) and an Ultra-conditioning Lip Balm made from Beeswax (4g), along with a Razor, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and a pen. The women’s bag includes a Limited Edition Pro-Collagen Marine Cream (7ml), soothing apricot facial wipe, the Ultra-Conditioning Lip Balm (4g) and some Pro-Collagen Hand & Nail Cream (5ml) along with socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and pen.
4. DRINKS & MEALS
After boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of water, orange juice or champagne. I also received a hot towel (disappointing texture though).
Just under 30 minutes into the flight, I was served a sprite (with ice and lemon) and a small bag containing an assortment of cold nuts. Meanwhile, I had already forwarded the movie Captain Philips to its brilliant and emotional final scene.
Soon thereafter, lunch was offered, all served on a single tray. British Airways business class food can be a hit and a miss, and this time it was by all standards an embarrassing miss (or I simply had bad luck).
As a starter, I choose the meze plate of aubergine, pepper and tomato salad, labneh with mint, harissa and chili humus. May sound impressive, but presentation was less than memorable and so was the taste.
As an entrée, I had the chicken tikka masala with dal makhani and jeera pulao rice. I tasted as good as it looked like. Come on, British Airways, you can do so much better than that! Can anybody tell me where’s the chicken in the picture? :-)
For dessert, I had the lemon and mascarpone tart with raspberry compote. It tasted very good (and somehow compensated for the bad starter and entrée). I was also offered a bar of chocolate.
90 minutes prior to landing, we were served afternoon tea, snacks (a selection of sandwiches featuring spiced pastrami with mustard, prawn mayonnaise, and eggs with spinach) and sweets (buttermilk or fruit scones with clotted cream, chocolate éclair, lemon cupcake and raspberry cream sponge). I am not a big fan of British Airways afternoon tea and snacks concept (especially not of the sandwiches served in a plastic container), and it was not different on this flight.
5. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: I love the crew of British Airways crew, and this time, the 2 stewardesses on the upper deck were brilliant (and the best I ever encountered). They were so friendly and competent. If you read this, British Airways, send them my warm greetings.
# BAR: British Airways 747 has a a walk-up “Club Kitchen” onboard, where fliers can graze between meals. You have the option of sandwiches, fine artisan pastries, yoghurt, ice cream, fresh fruit, and/or a chocolate selection.
# LAVATORY: lavatories were kept clean during the flight, but they are small and not luxurious at all as compared to other airlines.
# INTERNET: WiFi is not offered by BA at the moment. Currently, they are testing it on one of their planes.
# WALKING THROUGH ECONOMY: makes one feel so blessed that we can afford to fly business class, especially on a 10 hour flight.
# ENTERTAINMENT: Not only is the touch screen rather small, but the selection of movies and TV shows on order is also rather limited.
# VIEWS: we enjoyed some great views while overflying the American Rockies.
6. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 4/10
- Inflight entertainment : 5/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin: 8/10
- Overall experience: average: 6,6/10