Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B777-200 Club World (three-class)

16/11/2013

BACKGROUND

BA started flying to Hyderabad in 2008 and recently upped this to daily (see news, August 5). This is the inward-bound flight, to read a review of the outward flight from London Heathrow, click here.

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Hyderabad International Airport (Rajiv Gandhi International – RGI on the road signs) at 0515 for the 0655 departure on BA 0267, a flight of ten hours and 30 minutes duration.

To get into the airport you have to show your passport and proof of your flight. I did not have anything other than the BA app on my mobile phone, and so this caused some puzzlement. But in truth I was lucky I had refreshed it and it showed the flight details, since my phone had been having trouble connecting for phone calls in Hyderabad, let alone data. Without being able to show my flight details, I'm not sure I could have got into the airport.

There was no further security before check-in (no scanning of bags being brought in), which was extremely quick as there was no queue at the premium check-in desk in Zone F. Make sure that you have a tag attached to your hand baggage at this stage as it will be essential later.

I then queued for ten minutes to have my passport checked and another 30 minutes for the security check. It's a good airport, but this is a very slow process, with men and women being separated into two queues. Since there will either be more women than men, or more men than women, this means that there are inevitable problems as families are divided, leading to distressing scenes and further delay. The x-ray process is not thorough as I saw one passenger take through a large two litre bottle of water in his hand as he walked through the scanner, and then was patted down.

Note that you must get both your boarding card and your hand baggage tag stamped at this point. If not, as you try and walk onto the plane the final check will send you back to get your stamp.

BOARDING

By now it was around 0600 and so I walked through the Duty Free area to look for the Premium Plaza Lounge, but saw a bookshop and got browsing. I then realised I was right by Gate 32a and that the flight was being called, so I never saw the lounge (although I believe it was by Gate 32).

I had my passport and ticket checked once before the gate, again at the gate, and then a final check of the stamp on the baggage tag as I stepped to one side to let several unfortunate passengers, tired and bewildered, make their way back to get this essential stamp.

I was then asked what my seat row was, said row 11, and was sent to the front door of the aircraft, which meant I walked through the front cabin of business class (Club World), met all the rest of the passengers coming through Door 2, and then found my seat in the second cabin.

My jacket was taken and I was offered a drink – orange juice and water, I think. I didn't see any champagne and it was too early for me anyway.

THE SEAT

This is a three class B777 with economy, premium economy and business class, which is in two cabins. To see a seat plan, click here. The seating configuration is AC-DEFG–HK.

Note that we have reviewed the Club World seat many times, and although we give a brief description of the seat in subsequent reviews, to avoid repetition we try and focus on the service elements rather than just copying and pasting previous descriptions. To see previous reviews, and to see pictures of the seat, click here.

After travelling in the front cabin on the way out to Hyderabad a few days previously, I wanted to try the second cabin, in a window seat, and with no one hindering access to the aisle, since I intended to do some work and needed to be able to get my bag from the overhead locker when I needed it.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

I’d selected 11A, where I was seated, or 11J. I like the window seats for the view, the privacy, and I'd choose the one at the back of the cabin because you don't have to step over the feet of the person beside you.

You could go for row 5 (A or K), but you'd be making a mistake because you are very close to the galley and its noise. Row 11 runs the risk of there being a baby in a bassinet in the front row of premium economy (World Traveller Plus), but with ear plugs and headphones on, that's bearable. Besides, there were no bassinets in premium economy on this flight, although it sounded like there were a few in economy.

If choosing between 11A and 11K (and yes, I am splitting hairs here), I'd say 11K is best if you use the washroom a lot, since both washrooms are on that side of the aircraft, but 11A will be easier to disembark the aircraft, since the exit door will be on that side.

THE FLIGHT

We pushed back from the stand on time and took-off at 0705. The captain said we would have a fast flight time – not ten hours and 30 minutes, but rather nine hours and 40 minutes, traffic at Heathrow permitting.

Menus and Elemis amenity bags were handed out once we were in the air and, aware that some wanted to sleep, the breakfast service started quickly at 0750. The menu was as follows:

  • Chilled fruit juice, mango smoothies, fresh seasonal fruit, dry fruit muesli
  • Full English breakfast or scrambled eggs, bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms, tomato and Lyonnaise potatoes
  • Cheese omelette with potato wedges, sautéed mushrooms and cherry tomato
  • Vegetable rawa upma with uttappam, sambhar and aloo bonda (semolina with onions, carrots and coriander pancake with potato dumplings).

The service was really, really good. The cabin services director had already introduced himself at the beginning of the flight, and said if there was anything he could do to help, just ask. OK, he'd done it to every passenger, but it's a nice touch and was genuinely delivered.

So when the breakfast meal service started, I said I wanted only the cold starters and asked if I could have both the fruit and museli. Since I was at the back of the cabin and some people had gone straight to sleep I was told that wasn't a problem. I was also impressed that they did this service quietly, especially since the passenger inside of me on the aisle (11C) was already asleep.

I then used the washroom to change into a comfortable sleeping top, and one of the flight attendants, seeing that, asked if I would like my tray clearing away, which was done by the time I returned to me seat. As I fell asleep I noticed they were having to reset the inflight entertainment for the whole cabin.

I slept for four hours and on waking noticed that the green light indicating the in-seat laptop power was orange. Luckily it was the light that was not working, not the power, so I could work and charge my devices, plugging in my laptop and then plugging my phone into the laptop.

The flight attendants brought me tea when I asked for it, and when the next meal service approached, I asked if they could put aside a chicken salad (see the menu below) in case that option ran out before they got to me (because I was at the back of the cabin and so would normally be the last to be served). Not only did they do so, but they brought me the meal early since I was hungry, so I was served first in the cabin. I could then carry on working.

This meant, in effect, I was served an hour early, since they waited until 75 minutes before landing to do the meal service to give everyone the maximum amount of time to sleep.

BA Club World chicken salad

Lunch: the chicken salad - huge portions, and very tasty

The lunch menu was as follows:

Starters

  • Prawn, avocado and tomato timbale with Marie Rose sauce
  • Aloo paneer with spinach fritters and tamarind sauce
  • Salad (that's the salad on the left of the picture - seemed bigger than the normal one)

Main

  • Fillet of salmon with mashed potatoes, broccoli and saffron sauce
  • Hyderabadi lamb korma
  • Jalfrezi corn paneer with cumin rice and dhabi dal
  • Chilled main course salad of marinated chicken and potato salad with honey roasted mustard dressing

Dessert

  • Chocolate and strawberry layer cake with vanilla sauce
  • A selection of cheese
  • Tea, coffee and chocolates

Wines

  • Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne
  • Pouilly-Fume 2012, Domaine Lebrun, Loire, France (white)
  • Zevenwacht “The Tin Mine” 2012, Stellbosch, South Africa (white) 
  • Chateau Crabitey 2009, Graves, Bordeaux (red)
  • The Strapper GSM 2011, Barossa, South Australia (red)

Both of the salads were great. I didn't have a starter and couldn't finish the main – the chicken pieces were huge.

We made very quick time back, but although this meant that the cabin crew had less time to serve, they still made sure everyone had what they needed.

The passenger on the aisle next to me had slept through most of the flight, but when he woke wanted a full meal and plenty of glasses of wine, and they were still serving him a final glass of red to go with his cheese 25 minutes before landing. We were then held for 15 minutes waiting for a slot at Heathrow, but still, there are plenty of crews who would have said they would have to clear it all away ready for landing.

We landed around 45 minutes early, and had to wait for an airbridge for a few minutes, but whether because we were early or just lucky, insead of going back to Satellite C, we were docked at the main terminal.

Immigration was quick - no queues, and then there was a 15-minute wait for bags.

VERDICT

Excellent. A great seat (one of the best on the aircraft, I think), on-time departure and arrival, a nice quiet cabin (I’d go for this second one ahead of the main cabin), very good food and exemplary service, some of the best I have ever received on any airline.

The outward flight was good, but this was even better. A perfect start to the weekend.


Tom Otley