Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B777-200 Club World

21/04/2015

CHECK-IN

If you want to select your seats more than 24 in advance, on this service it costs £65 each way in Club World. Within 24 hours of flying it is free. I had been assigned window seat 12A, which I was happy with, and I checked in at Haneda airport when I arrived. (This is much closer to downtown Tokyo than Narita.)

I was dropped off at the International Terminal at 0615 (it’s only about 20 minutes' drive from Nihonbashi). I then took a set of escalators up to level three of Departures, and walked to Zone L, where the BA desks are located.

There were six open – one for First passengers, two for Club World, one for bag-drop and two for World Traveller/World Traveller Plus. There was no one else ahead of me so I was checked in immediately and issued with a boarding pass.

From here, it was one minute to fast-track security. Again no one else was around so I was processed in less than a minute (laptops out but not liquids).

THE LOUNGE

I had been told to use the JAL Sakura lounge by Gate 112, a few minutes to the left when entering the airside departure corridor. (BA codeshares on the Tokyo-London route with Japan Airlines.) The facility is located on the level above and accessed by an escalator.

Inside, there were lockers for belongings, free wifi (I had to ask for help in registering with an email address as the instructions were all in Japanese), magazines and papers (mainly in Japanese), showers, telephone kiosks, several windows letting in natural light, and plenty of dining seating with tables and a living room area.

A buffet was laid out, with dishes including breakfast items such as sausages, hash browns, scrambled eggs, croissants and French bread, along with salad, mini ham and egg sandwiches wrapped in cling film, and biscuits. Fridges held jugs of fruit juice, bottles of Pocari Sweat and green tea. There was also a coffee machine and a full, self-service bar.

BOARDING

I left the facility at 0800 (boarding was scheduled to begin at 0810 from Gate 106 at the far end of the terminal). I tried to buy some Japanese whisky from duty-free, however, despite going to all three outlets, all of it was sold out.

I arrived at the gate at 0825, when the flight was suddenly on its final call. There was no queue so my documents were quickly checked and I made my way on to the plane via an airbridge.

I was given a warm welcome by crew and directed to my seat, before being offered a glass of water, orange juice or champagne. I stowed my bags in the overhead bin and perused the menu I was handed. Elemis amenity kits (containing socks, an eyemask, toothbrush and paste, lip balm, ear plugs, body lotion and in-flight cream) and headphones were also provided. Slippers are available on request.

THE SEAT

British Airways’ business class Club World product is arranged in a yin-yang, forward-backward facing formation (2-4-2) across rows ten to 15 of the four-class B777-200. I was in 12A. (Click here to see a seat plan.)

The cabin looks a tad worn these days but the seats are still clean and upholstered in smart blue fabric. Not being the newest version of BA’s Club World product, which can be found on its A380s and B787s, it looks a little out of date. The IFE screens on this plane were also small, at 10.5 inches, and the quality of the image wasn’t very good.

There are privacy dividers that come up between each seat pair, handy drawers for shoes, a pull-out video screen with a remote in the side panel, and a bi-fold table that can slide closer to you when opened up. Buttons adjust the seat recline and there are power sockets and USB ports.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

Choose seats A on the left-hand side of the aircraft for views of Mount Fuji, although note that window are misaligned for those in 10A/K, 12A/K and 14A/K.

Middle pairs are quite intimate, especially if you don’t know the person sitting next to you. Window seats are the most private but you will have to step over the feet of the person in front if they have reclined their seat fully.

Not everyone will like the fact that window seats face backwards, as sometimes you can feel like you are leaning forwards a bit due to the angle the plane flies at. Aisle seats all face forward.

THE FLIGHT

The captain came on at 0840 to say we were going to be ten minutes ahead of schedule, taking off to the north, over Nigata, before flying through Russian airspace across Siberia. He also said the flight time would be 12 hours, 50 minutes because of strong head winds.

A safety video was played on personal screens at 0845 and we pushed back at 0850. Small electronic devices in flight mode can be used during take-off, taxiing and landing, but not laptops or IFE systems. Glasses were collected before take-off and any extraneous items such as bottles of water placed out of the way in lockers or shoe trays. We were in the air by 0900.

Once cruising, at about 0915, crew came around handing back any belongings (such as my laptop) that they’d taken to put in the overhead bins for take-off.

Shortly after, the breakfast service began from the front. The trolley arrived next to me at 0940, and I was offered a choice of tea or coffee, juice or a banana and mango smoothie. There was also fruit, muesli, bread and pastries, which came served on trays with white cloths, metal cutlery, china dishes and Tiptree jam in small jars.

Next came a choice of hot items: a full English breakfast with Canadian back bacon, bubble and squeak, sautéed mushrooms and grilled tomato; grilled mackerel shio-yaki with Ginan sauce, spicy konjak, vegetable inari and steamed rice; or Belgian waffles with ricotta and mixed berry compote. (I had the last – they were nice, if a little crispy). Top-ups of Taittinger champagne were available on request.

At about midday, the cabin lights were dimmed and the blinds closed to allow people to rest. I tried to watch a film but the quality of my IFE screen was awful – I could barely discern any faces so I asked to move to an empty seat (12C), which wasn’t a problem, luckily. The screen there was better but not as good as the system on the outbound flight to Narita, which was operated by a B777-300ER. The selection of recent-release movies was good though, with about half a dozen that I had been looking forward to seeing.

During the flight, the Club Kitchen was open to passengers in search of a snack – there were nuts, crisps, packs of breadsticks and hummus, ice cream, fruit, chocolate and biscuits. Self-serve soft drinks were also laid out and booze on request. Members of the crew came around roughly every 90 minutes with glasses of water and juice.

At about 1600 I decided to get some rest so returned to my original seat (12A). However, I found that it wouldn’t fully recline – in fact it didn’t even come close. I called a member of crew to get them to look at it and they agreed that the buttons had probably worn out, and apologised. I said it wasn’t a problem for me because I could return to 12C but for anyone else on a full flight without this option, it would be a serious issue. She said she would be reporting it on landing.

Dinner wasn't served until about 1900, by which time I was really quite hungry. There were two starters: a selection of Japanese appetisers – simmered prawns, grilled taro potato and rolled burdock with cutlassfish; and buffalo mozzarella with tomato and olive oil. These came with a side salad and vinaigrette.

The four mains were:

  • Grilled fillet of Australian grass-fed beef with Madeira sauce, garlic and parsley mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables
  • Grilled Spanish mackerel with saikyo miso and steamed rice with bamboo shoots
  • Japanese chicken curry with snap peas, carrot, pickled radish and steamed rice
  • Cold green tea soba noodle salad with mountain vegetables, spring onions, wasabi and soy sauce

I had the last, which was a little strange but quite tasty. To end the meal, I had Danish Blue and red Cheddar cheese with water crackers and grapes. There were also desserts of green tea tiramisu and fresh fruit, plus tea, coffee and chocolates.

As well as a good selection of spirits (Tanqueray gin, the Glenlivet 15-year-old malt etc) and liqueurs (Kahlua, Cointreau, Baileys), there were four wines, two New World and two Old World:

  • Château de Chantegrive Cuvée Caroline, 2013, Graves, Bordeaux, France
  • Tiki Sauvignon Blanc, 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Château St Georges, 2010, St Georges-St Emilion, Bordeaux, France
  • Weemala Shiraz Viognier, 2012, Central Ranges, NSW, Australia

As well as Taittinger Brut Reserve champagne, there was Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV.

After the meal, I got up to get ready for landing, as found the sinks in the washrooms were blocked and almost overflowing. The crew were aware of the problem but didn’t say what had caused it.

ARRIVAL

The aircraft started its descent at 2125, with landing expected to be 2145 at a remote stand at Heathrow Terminal 5 where buses would take us to the airport. I was in the airport by 1400 local time, whereby I made my way through immigration to baggage reclaim. It took ages for my suitcase appear – at least 30 minutes.

VERDICT

It’s great departing from Haneda, as it is so much more convenient that Narita, but the flight itself was a bit disappointing. There were problems with my IFE system and the seat wouldn’t recline, which would have been really serious had there been nowhere else to move to. The crew were friendly and professional, though. It took a long time for my luggage to arrive, despite being priority tagged.

FACT FILE:

  • SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-4-2 (A-C, D-E-F-G, J-K)
  • SEAT WIDTH 25in
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • BED LENGTH 72in
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return Club World flight to Tokyo in May ranged between £3,448 and £7,452 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT ba.com

Jenny Southan