Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.
In April 2016, I enjoyed a terrific holiday with one of my best friends in incredibly beautiful Oman. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: British Airways B787-9 First Class London to Muscat (today)
- Review: Shangri-La Al Husn
- Review: Alila Jabal Akhdar
- Review: Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel
- Review: The Chedi Muscat
- Review: InterContinental Muscat
- Review: Emirates A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam
Today (April 20, 2016): Trip report: British Airways Dreamliner B787-9 First Class London to Muscat (via Abu Dhabi)
On April 9th 2016, I flew First Class in a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner of British Airways (BA) from London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Muscat International Airport (MCT) in Oman. The B787-9 is the latest aircraft type to join BA’s fleet. At the time of writing, seven B787-9 Dreamliners have been delivered to BA so far, in addition to eight B787-8 Dreamliners. While BA’s B787-8 has three classes (Economy, Premium Economy, and Business), the national carrier of the UK has utilized the additional 20ft (6 m) on its 787-9 to add a First Class cabin at the front of the aircraft. Created specifically for the Boeing 787-9, the new First Class suites have been painstakingly designed based on feedback rom BA’s First Class customers, to put comfort at the heart of the experience and make the very best use of the more intimate space. Overall, I loved the experience. While the BA Dreamliner First Class product is not as opulent and lavish as compared to that of its Middle East competitors, it offers a more subtile, refined and very British experience.
The BA flight from London to Muscat is not a direct one, as the plane always makes a short, scheduled stop-over of around one hour in Abu Dhabi to let some passengers off and new ones on. Those with Muscat as final destination don’t need to deplane in Abu Dhabi. The cabin crew remains on the plane during the process (they have their layover in Muscat), while the flight crew is changed in Abu Dhabi.
- Trip: LHR-MCT
- Airline: British Airways
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: G-ZBKB
- Flight Number: BA73
- Date: April 9th, 2016
- On time departure: yes (9.40 am)
- On time arrival: yes (10 pm)
- Miles: 3629
- Flight time: 7 hours 20 minutes (excluding the one hour layover in Abu Dhabi)
- Seat: 2A
- Class: First
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- BA premium check-in area at Heathrow
- The Concorde Room at Heathrow
- Facts & Figures about the BA Dreamliner
- First Class Cabin
- First Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict
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1. BA PREMIUM CHECK-IN AREA AT HEATHROW
BA has a dedicated check-in area in the Southern end of Terminal 5 for its First Class passengers. I was warmly welcomed and checked-in within a matter of minutes. While other airlines often have a separate security check point for their First Class passengers adjacent to the First Class check-in area, that’s not the case at Heathrow: Business and First Class passengers all use the same fast track security lanes.
2. THE CONCORDE ROOM AT HEATHROW
The Concorde Room is BA’s most exclusive lounge category, and a step above the standard Business and First Class lounges it offers across the globe. The Concorde Room is only available at London’s Heathrow Airport and New York’s JFK Airport, and the lounge can only be accessed if you’re flying First Class on British Airways (one guest is welcome as well), or if you are a Gold Member of BA’ frequent flyer program Executive Club with 5,000 Tier Points.
At Heathrow, the Concorde Room is located within British Airways’ lounge complex at Terminal 5. It has two entrances: the main entrance is located on the first floor above the concourse (in front of the First Class lounge, and next to the spa entrance), but it also has a discrete side entrance that is located immediately after the security check point. The lounge itself is somewhat reminiscent of the lobby of a boutique hotel. It features the same contemporary decor that can also be found in the other BA lounges, with stylish high-backed chairs, beautiful chandeliers, horse statues, and oak wooded floors. While the lounge itself is not large and feels quite busy, there is plenty of seating for everyone. One side of the lounge features a couple of cozy sitting corners with gas fires (creating a “home away from home” ambience), while the opposite side of the lounge has a terrace which offers nice views across the airport’s concourse and apron.
The center of the lounge is made up of a stylish bar and restaurant. The restaurant space is quite remarkable, featuring a collection of lovely, private booths, in addition to a couple of long tables where you are seated next to other passengers if you would prefer this set-up. There’s full waiter service and an a la carte menu. I visited the lounge in the morning, so I was offered an extensive breakfast menu, but since I wanted to save my appetite for on the plane, I only ordered some granola and mixed fruits.
The various BA lounges at Terminal 5 share an Elemis Travel Spa, which is pretty awesome. While the complimentary treatments are quick (15 minutes), they are top shelf, plus it is something else to do to break up the trip. I loved it. First Class passengers can prebook treatments within 28 days of departure, while Business Class passengers and BA’s elite frequent flyers can only book them upon arrival at the spa.
3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT THE BA DREAMLINER
Here is some (fun) general information about the B787 as provided by BA:
- The Boeing 787-8 is a mid-size, dual aisle, twin engine jet manufactured by Boeing, the American aerospace company.
- The aircraft is 20% more fuel efficient than similar sized commercial jets it is designed to replace, and to date, is Boeing’s most fuel efficient aircraft.
- Composite materials make up 50 percent of the primary structure, including the fuselage and wing.
- The engine nacelles are made of serrated edges that reduce the noise levels both outside and inside the cabin, by up to 60%.
- The aircraft also features raked wingtip to further improve the fuel efficiency.
- The windows are more than 30 percent larger than those on most similarly sized airplanes. Instead of pulling shades up and down, customers can adjust the brightness of windows with a button. Using an electrochromic dimming system, the windows turn from fully transparent to completely dimmed in gradual steps.
- Less than 10,000 holes are drilled into the fuselage during assembly of a 787.
- The size of the 787 factory is approximately 380,000 square feet.
- The 787 flies at Mach 0.85, or about 650 miles per hour.
- Current BA 787 destinations are: Austin, Baltimore, Cairo, Calgary, Chengdu, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Montreal, Newark, Philadelphia, Seoul, Tel Aviv, and Toronto.
4. FIRST CLASS CABIN
Upon entering the plane, I was escorted by one of the flight attendants to the the small but exclusive First Class cabin. First Class on the BA Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft feels very private as it only features 8 seats, compared to the usual 14 seats in BA’s other aircraft types (B747, B777, and A380). The 8 seats are spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 herringbone configuration, all of them having direct aisle access. The 4 First Class seats on the sides are ideal for solo travelers (with 2 large windows per seat, offering great views), while the 4 seats in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion. But if you are a solo traveler and you end up in one the middle seats, there’s no problem as you can rise a divider for complete privacy. The First Class cabin features a beautiful, contemporary, somewhat minimalistic design (which I liked a lot): it feels luxurious and the dark and light neutral colors create a relaxing ambience of wellbeing and comfort.
Click here for a seat map of the British Airways B787-9.
5. FIRST CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)
Created specifically for the Boeing 787-9, the new First Class suite is an upgraded version of the ‘old’ product that you find on BA’s other longhaul planes and is currently the best that BA has to offer in terms of cabin comfort. Contrary to the enclosed First Class suites with sliding doors that you find on several other airlines these days, the BA B787-9 First Class seat features an open design, although it’s located within its own cocoon and feels totally private (no other passengers can see you, thanks to the herringbone layout and high seat walls).
The seat itself is quiet spacious, with a generous pitch of 73 inches (185 cm) and width of 22 inches (56 cm). It features a dark, leather-stitched upholstery, giving you the feeling of being seated in a luxury car. In front of the seat, there’s a large, 23-inch (58 cm) entertainment screen (more on that later) and the (adjustable) ottoman. Because the entertainment screen is fixed above the ottoman, there’s no possibility to use the ottoman as an extra seat to dine with a buddy within your suite. However, the fixed screen has the advantage that you don’t need to stow the screen during takeoff and landing, so you can continue to watch your movie and enjoy gate to gate entertainment. One side of the seat features a retro chrome pearlite reading lamp and a large, shiny tray table (which can be pulled out from the side wall of the suite). A jog wheel control device regulates each feature within the suite, from the side lamp to seat recline: you press the button of the seat feature that you want to adjust, and then turn the weel either way to manipulate the lights or lumbar support.
In addition to the overhead bins, there are four dedicated spaces within the suite to store all your stuff: (1) a narrow inward facing wardrobe is ideal to hang your coat; (2) a triangular shaped bin to store your shoes and/or bag is located adjacent to the ottoman and below the wardrobe; (3) a small cabinet is located next to the seat at eye level and features a vanity mirror inside, and (4) a tiny storage spaces below the seat controls and power ports that also holds the remote control is perfect for storing your wallet, glasses, and cellphone.
Of course, the seat – together with the ottoman – can be transformed in a fully lie-flat bed, and it’s a very comfortable one. It’s 78 inches (198cm) long and 38 inches (95 cm) wide because the arm rests go down as well when you flatten the seat. The crew provides a soft mattress topper, a thick pillow, and very comfortable blanket, so you will not have a problem at all to fall asleep (and it helps that the plane is so quiet).
What are the best First Class seats on BA’s B787-9? Click here for a seat map.
- Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats.
What are the worst First Class seats on BA’s B787-9? Click here for a seat map.
- There are no bad seats in BA’s B787-9 First Class cabin.
BA provides its First Class passengers a very nice amenity kit (‘washbag’ as they call them), with a different content for men and women. The stylish, grey colored bag features a British Airways leather logo on the front and the word “First” imprinted on the leather zipper pull. The men’s bag – which I received – contains shave gel, revitalizer moisturizer, lip balm, deodorant stick, and eye gel from London based, grooming emporium for men, The Refinery, in addition to essentials such as such as a pen, eyeshades, socks, earplugs, hairbrush and razor.
BA’s First Class passengers also receive a pajama, which is a very nice gesture (for example: Qatar Airways and Emirates – both famous for their onboard luxury and service – do not provide pajamas on medium-haul dayflights). The lightweight, dark green pajama is presented with a ribbon bow, and features the BA First Class logo on the chest.
Upon boarding, I was served a welcome beverage (I choose orange juice, since somehow, I don’t really like to drink alcohol when on a plane). A refreshing hot towel was served after takeoff, and lunch service started about one hour after being airborne (although one could also choose to have lunch at a later time). I choose the following items from the extensive menu:
- Starter: Meze plate featuring parsley and chill hummus, aubergine mutabbal, chickpea, cumin and lentil salad with chicken kebab and lamb bilajine.
- Soup: Cream of wild mushroom soup.
- Main course Seared fillet of North Atlantic cod with a sorrel cream sauce, chervil and lemon couscous, braised fennel and herb oil.
- Dessert: Lemon and semolina sponge pudding with lemon sauce
The food was excellent and all dishes were well executed, tasty and visually appealing.
About 90 minutes before landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport, afternoon tea was served. It included a selection of sandwiches, patisserie and scones:
- Sandwiches featuring crayfish with mango, roast beef with horseradish cream, egg mayonnaise with rocket, and smoked Applewood cheese with onion.
- Patisserie featuring Pistachio and raspberry Opéra, lemon meringue tart, and ginger cake.
- Buttermilk and fruit scones served warm with clotted cream and strawberry preserves.
During the short flight from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, a drink was offered, as well as some mouth-watering canapés.
8. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
The inflight entertainment is displayed on the individual giant 23-inch (58 cm) touch-screen that is supported by one hand-held controller. The latter is found in the tiny storage space next to the seat and it really helps as you don’t have to lean forward to touch the screen all the time when you want to change the entertainment. There are tons of movies and tv shows to explore, alongside a range of other content, including a much-enhanced flight map and chat sessions with other passengers (so if you fancy striking up a conversation with someone six rows or even a cabin away, now is your chance).
9 OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: I love the BA cabin crew, and during all my flights with BA, I never encountered any problem with them or with the onboard service, and it was not different on this flight. What I like particularly about the BA crew is their professionalism and routine when it comes to 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 since I am a nervous flyer. In addition, we encountered some unexpected, moderate turbulence on the way from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, and the pilot immediately communicated to the passengers that this was not something to worry about.
# BAR: unfortunately, there’s no walk-up bar present on the Dreamliner, but one could order whatever he/she wanted from the menu at any time.
# LAVATORY: there’s just one lavatory for First Class passengers in the front of the cabin (behind the cockpit), which is fairly spacious and well-appointed with toiletries.
# WIFI: unfortunately, WiFi is not offered by BA at the moment. Currently, they are testing it on one of their planes.
# FLIGHT PATH: normally, the flight path from London to Muscat via Abu Dhabi goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.
# CHAUFFEUR SERVICE: unfortunately, BA does not provide complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers for its First Class passengers (in contrast to most other airlines).
- Seat : 9/10
- Food: 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin: 9/10
- Overall experience: excellent: 8.6/10
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Nice review- I had a similar experience July 2018 LHR-SJC. I would add that there is now a separate security check for First at terminal 5. The check-in area has been walled, and the security check leads you directly to the lounge area