A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a memorable trip with one of my best friends in the fascinating country of Japan, which represents a unique and inspiring blend of traditional and ultramodern culture. The hotels we stayed at were spectacular, and the flights to/from Japan were not bad either. You can read my trip reports here:
- Trip report: Japan Airlines B77W Business Class London to Tokyo
- Review: Amanemu (Japan’s most exclusive resort)
- Review: Aman Tokyo
- Review: Hyatt Regency Hakone
- Review: Park Hyatt Tokyo
- Review: St Regis Osaka
- Review: Andaz Tokyo
- Review: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
- Trip report: British Airways B77W Business Class Tokyo to London (today)
Today (July 27th, 2016): Trip report: British Airways B777-300ER Business Class Tokyo to London.
On May 18th 2016, I flew Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER (B77W) of British Airways (BA) from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) in Japan to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the United Kingdom. The UK’s national carrier has 58 Boeing 777 planes in its fleet, making it the 5th largest operator in the world of the popular widebody aircraft (behind Emirates, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Cathay Pacific). Most of these aircraft in the BA fleet are aging Boeing 777-200ER models, with a total of 12 new Boeing 777-300ER being added to the fleet since 2010. Compared to the B777-200ER, the B777-300ER (or B77W) is a more technologically advanced aircraft, with raked and extended wingtips, a strengthened fuselage and wings, a modified main landing gear, and GE90-115B turbofans, the world’s most powerful jet engine. Business Class on BA’s B777-300ER is similar to the one on BA’s A380 (read my review here) and features an updated version of the product that you find on its aging Boeing 747-400ERs (read my review here) and B777-200ERs. Although BA’s Business Class (dubbed Club World) raised the bar for Business Class worldwide a decade ago with the introduction of the first fully lie-flat seat, it is now outclassed by some of its competitors. Nevertheless, I still judge it to be an excellent product (except for the food).
British Airways features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best airlines for longhaul Business Class.
- Trip: HND-LHR
- Airline: British Airways
- Aircraft type: Boeing 777-300ER
- Aircraft registration number: G-STBE
- Flight Number: BA8
- Date: May 18th, 2016
- On time departure: yes (9 am)
- On time arrival: yes (12.30 pm)
- Miles: 5974
- Flight time: 11 hours & 30 minutes
- Seat: 12A
- Class: Business
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Price of my ticket
- JAL lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict
1. PRICE OF MY TICKET
The cost of my Business Class ticket was 1349 euro, including taxes, for the roundtrip from Brussels to Tokyo via London. This is a terrific deal, since that’s less than half the normal price, and in the range of a flexible Economy Class ticket. The flight was booked as a BA ticket (Japan Airlines codeshare) during a BA promotion.
As previously explained, I almost never pay a full price for a flight, as I mostly use my hard-earned miles for booking a premium class seat or make the booking during an airline’s promotion. Most of us will completely ignore any Business Class fare as it seems out of reach. However, that’s a wrong assumption. Business tends to slow down during the school holidays and airlines cannot fill their Business Class seats, hence selling them at an impressively discounted price, that – in some cases – matches the price of tickets for the seats in the crammed back of the plane.
2. JAL LOUNGE AT TOKYO’S HANEDA AIRPORT
BA does not have its own lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. But this is not a bad thing at all since BA’s Business and First Class passengers have access to Japan Airline’s excellent and refurbished Sakura lounge, located opposite gate 112 in Henada’s international terminal. Escalators take passengers from the terminal’s groundfloor to the bright reception area on the first floor, where the staff will check your boarding pass and guide you to either the Business or First Class section within the lounge.
Created by the famous Japanese interior designer Ruy Kosaka, the Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge spreads over two floors. The lower floor is mainly used as a dining room, but also has lockers (to store carry-on luggage) and shower facilities near its entrance. In addition to the business center and a small self-serve bar, the upper floor has a large lounge area, with plenty of seating options such as arm chairs, bar seats and cabanas (the lounge features 314 seats in total). Both floors feature a classic, contemporary décor, incorporating several traditional Japanese elements such as latticework, Sakura cherry blossom motifs and pieces of art. In addition, both floors embrace the daylight with large windows offering excellent views of the runways.
I visited the lounge in the early morning hours, when breakfast was served at the large buffet station. Food selection was extensive, with a mixture of Western and Japanese cuisine. A highlight was the freshy baked bread from Maison Kayser’s, one of the top bakeries in Japan. The buffet also featured scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, bacon, several types of sandwiches, corn flakes, chilled corn soup, a salad bar, rice porridge with scallops; spicy seasoned cod roe, grilled Spanish mackerel, and Japanese omelette.
From the lounge it was a 10 minute walk to the gate.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
BA’s Boeing 777-300ER has a total of 299 seats spread over four cabins: 14 open suites in First Class, 56 flatbeds in Club World (Business Class), 44 standard seats in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), and 185 standard seats in World Traveller (Economy).
The 56 Business Class seats are located in one, spacious cabins, behind the First Class cabin and in front of the Premium Economy Class cabin. The bright, contemporary Business Class cabin decor creates a sense of wellbeing and comfort, which is a great thing when you are a nervous flyer like me. The predominant white colour of the suites and cabin walls elegantly contrasts with the seat covers’ maritime blue, which is British Airways signature colour. The cabin’s ceiling also features four design chandeliers, creating soft light inflight. While the overall cabin ambience feels great, it cannot compete with the intimate and private atmosphere that you experience when flying in BA’s Boeing 747 upper deck Business Class (read my review here).
The seats feature an innovative “Ying/Yang” 2-4-2 layout, which is unique to British Airways: window and middle seats face backwards, while aisle seats face forwards. Because of this unique concept, you have to jump over other passenger’s legs to reach the aisle when seated in a backward facing seat (which is rather inconvenient when you frequently have to go to the bathroom during the flight).
Click here for a seat map of the British Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER.
4. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
A great thing about BA is that is offers a very consistent Business Class product across its wide body fleet. The Club World seats that you find on the B777 are identical to the ones on BA’s B747 and A380. The seat is located within its own cocoon or suite, and has a pitch of 72 inches (182 cm) and a seat cushion width of 20 inches (50 cm). In front of each seat, there’s a foot rest, which need to lowered in order to use it for comfort or for an extension of the flatbed. The angle of maximum seat recline is 180 degrees, and the overall length of seat when fully reclined into a flat bed (and when tilting the separate foot rest) is a 6ft (183cm). It also has a reclined Z-position for relaxing and watching films in a near-recumbent position.
Each seat has its own private entertainment screen, which swings out from one side of the cabin suite. With 12 inches or 20 cm, the screen is considerably larger as compared to that of BA’s older wide body planes. It also tilts up and down, so watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is perfectly possible.
There are retractable privacy dividers between adjoining seats, which can be lowered or raised, depending on the fact whether you are traveling solo or with a companion. The safety screen needs to be lowered during the safety briefing, and in addition, the crew will lower it when they serve you meals and drinks; this can feel very awkward when you are seated next to a stranger because you are directly looking into his/her eyes because of BA’s Ying/Yang layout.
The seat controls, a power port, and the remote control for the entertainment system (which can also be controlled by touching the screen) are located below the screen divider.
What are the best Business Class seats on BA’s B77W? Click here for a seat map.
- Solo travelers should go for the rear facing, window seats, which are located in their own cocoon, although you will have to step over the feet of other passengers every time you leave your seat (except when you are seated in a window seat in row 16, which has direct aisle access).
- The “honeymoon” center seats are a the best option for couples, since you’re basically flying in a private suite. The same problem here though, as you will have to step over another passenger’s legs everytime you need to go to the restroom or want to stretch your legs (except for the row 16, which has direct aisle access)
What are the worst Business Class seats on JAL’s B77W? Click here for a seat map.
- Window seats in row 10 (10A & 10K) lack a window and are best avoided if you like to look outside and enjoy the aerial panorama’s.
- Passengers seated in row 10 and 16 might be occasionally troubled by the noise from the galley and the nearby restrooms
- If you are traveling solo, you don’t want to be seated in one of the centre seats, since here, you are seated as close to the person next to you as you would be in economy (which is downright awkward when you end up next to a stranger in that configuration).
Each seat comes with a thin blanket, a comfortable pillow, and an 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 BA. Both the men and women’s versions include moisturizer and lip balm, as well as an eyeshade, earplugs, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and a pen for filling out arrivals forms.
This was a day flight, leaving in the morning, and we were served an excellent breakfast shortly after takeoff, and a somewhat disappointing lunch about 90 minutes prior arrival.
Breakfast was the best meal of the flight, with several option to choose from. As a starter, I had the Bircher muesli, which was served with a selection of warm breads and pastries, and an energizing mango smoothie. As a main course, I had the Belgian waffle with mixed berry sauce, ricotta cheese and maple syrup, which tasted excellent (although as a Belgian, I always find it strange that waffles are considered to be a delicatesse from Belgium, although waffles are not particularly popular in Belgium itself).
Lunch service, which started about 90 minutes before touchdown, was painfully slow with desserts being served less than 30 minutes before landing by a very hurried crew. I had the buffalo mozzarella with tomato and olive oil as a starter, which had a poor taste and lacked flavor. The main course was a grilled fillet of Australian grass-fed beef with Madeira sauce, garlic and parsley mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Although the presentation was ok, the beef was inedible and an embarrassment to BA’s catering department. I did like the original dessert though: green tea tiramisu with Chantilly cream.
On the entertainment front you get a private screen, noise-cancelling headphones, two USB sockets, power, and a video RCA connection for your camcorder, DVD player or camera. The private screen (12 inches or 20 cm) is larger as compared to that of BA’s older planes and swings out from the side of the private cabin suite. As mentioned above, it also tilts up and down, so watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is perfectly possible. The new Thales in-flight entertainment (available in all classes) is light years ahead of what BA currently offers on other planes, and screen quality has significantly improved. There are tons of movies and box sets 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).
8. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: I am a big fan of BA’s very British cabin crew, and during all my BA flights, I never encountered any problem with them or with the onboard service. It was not different on this flight.
# LAVATORY: The Business Class cabin has 6 lavatories: 2 in the front (shared with First Class passengers) and 4 at the back. All lavatories were kept very clean during the flight.
# WALK-UP BAR: All of BA’s B777s have a walk-up “Club Kitchen” onboard, where Business and First Class fliers can graze between meals. The bar is located between the First and Business Class cabin, and offers sandwiches, fine artisan pastries, yoghurt, ice cream, fresh fruit, and a chocolate selection. Throughout the flight, the Club World kitchen was kept fully stocked, and when I was there, flight attendants were quick to offer ice for drinks, cutlery for food and ask if there was anything else I required.
# INTERNET: unfortunately, WiFi is not offered by BA at the moment, although that is about to change soon.
# FLIGHT PATH: the flight path took us to the north of the globe, following a (sub)polar route. We flew north of Novary Zemlya (the big island north of Siberia) before reaching the Norwegian coast. This seems to be the standard route that BA flies on its return flights from Tokyo to London, while other airlines such as ANA and JAL seem to consistently follow a much more southerly itinerary for the same route (check it out yourself on Flightaware). I am puzzled by this, so if there’s an aviation expert or pilot reading this, please leave your expert opinion in the comments.
9. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 5/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Amenity kit: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin atmosphere: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,5/10 (if only the food was better)