Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B777-300ER Club World

21/04/2015

CHECK-IN

If you want to select your seats more than 24 hours in advance, on this service it costs £65 each way in Club World. Within 24 hours of flying it is free.

I was in seat 13A, which I was happy with. I checked in online, completing my personal details and printing my boarding pass, the night before my flight.

I arrived at London Heathrow's Terminal 5 on the Underground at 1040, taking a lift up to Departures where screens directed business class passengers to Zone H. Here, there were four bag-drop desks open and only one person ahead of me at each so it didn't take long for mine to be processed.

I was also issued with paper boarding pass. I then went through fast-track security (liquids and large electronic devices out – you also need to make sure they are charged). This was all very quick and painless.

THE LOUNGE

Although my BA0005 flight to Tokyo (departing at 1250) was due to leave from Gate 45 in satellite Terminal B, where there is also a lounge, I decided to use the Galleries South facility as it is bigger.

After security, I took the escalators down, walked along a corridor and then took another couple of sets back up. Inside, it was busy but there were enough different relaxation, dining and working areas to find a suitable place to sit. As well as free wifi, there were plenty of newspapers and magazines (including Business Traveller), power points and PCs.

At the far end are windows facing the runway. It was just after 1100 when I arrived so had about an hour for a light bite and some work. Breakfast was still being served at this time – there were bowls of freshly chopped fruit, yoghurt, croissants and toast. There was also a self-service juice and coffee station, as well as wine.

By midday, lunch had been laid out – this was a tempting spread of salads, curry, pasta, rice, baked potatoes, beans and cheese. Comfort food, which seemed popular with travellers who were crowding around and filling up their plates with gusto.

BOARDING

I had to head down to T5B at 1210, via the shuttle service that runs every few minutes. It took about seven minutes to get to my gate, where the boarding process had already started. Few other passengers were there so after having my documents checked, I went straight through and down a set of escalators to the airbridge where I joined a queue to get on board (only first class passengers have a separate entrance).

A member of crew gave me a warm welcome and directed me to my window seat, where I unpacked and made myself comfortable. At 1230, another member of cabin staff offered to hang my jacket for me and offered me a choice of Taittinger champagne, juice or water.

Headphones and Elemis amenity kits (containing socks, an eye mask, toothbrush and paste, lip balm, ear plugs, body lotion and in-flight cream) were also provided, along with menus, pillows and blankets. Bags have to be placed in the overhead lockers for take-off and landing.

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 16. I was in 13A. (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.

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?

Middle pairs (E-F) are quite intimate, especially if you don’t know the person sitting next to you, so you should probably avoid these if travelling alone. Window seats are the most private but you will have to step over the feet of the person in front of you if you want to get out when they have reclined their seat fully. Not everyone will like the fact that window seats face backwards, either. Aisle seats all face forward but do not have the feel of being in a “suite”, like the ones by the windows. Avoid seats in row 16 that are near the washrooms.

THE FLIGHT

The plane pushed back a little bit late at 1307, taking off not long after taxiing. Once airborne, meal orders were taken, a drinks trolley wheeled around (more Taittinger champagne for those who wanted it), and customs and embarkation forms handed out.

There was a mix of British and Japanese crew – John Wheatley, cabin service director, was particularly attentive and charming, taking the time to have a chat with passengers as he moved around the cabin. I felt relaxed, comfortable and well cared for, just what you want from business class.

A second drinks service came around at 1420, for top ups before lunch. At this point, I settled down to watch a film on the 12-inch touchscreen in-flight entertainment system. Lunch was served at 1440.

There were two starters served with a warm bread and butter or olive oil: a selection of Japanese appetisers – crab and cucumber roll, prawn sushi roll, pickled lotus root and Balik-style salmon; and tomato and mozzarella salad with black olives and creamy pesto dressing.

There were four mains:

  • Seared fillet of British beef with smoked potato fondant, broccoli, carrots and a Tellicherry black pepper sauce
  • Grilled eel teriyaki with Japanese vegetables and Uonuma Koshihikari rice
  • Japanese vegetable curry
  • Salad of spiced Shetland salmon with Indonesian-spiced pepper, pineapple, cashew and carrot

I opted for the mozzarella salad and the vegetable curry, both of which were enjoyable. I then finished with the cheese (Stilton, Coastal Cheddar) with grapes and biscuits. Sweets consisted of chocolate brownie with burnt honeycomb mascarpone, or fruit, followed by tea and coffee.

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

  • Pemberley Chardonnay, 2013, Pemberton, Western Australia

  • Château St Georges, 2010, St Georges-St Emilion, Bordeaux, France

  • Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012, Clare Valley/Coonawarra, South Australia

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

After my movie, I reclined the seat to fully flat mode at 1830 and took a sleeping pill. (Pyjamas a provided in First but not Club World.) The cabin lights had gone down at about 1800. I got a decent amount of rest, waking when the cabin lights came back on at 2250.

The bed was comfy but it would have been good to have a proper pillow and a sheet. I also found that the fold-down seat that you rest your feet on is a bit flimsy – if you press down on it too hard, it collapses. The armrests have been designed to be movable, so that when you recline the bed they lower to create more space, but as a consequence they are rather rickety.

At about 2310, breakfast was served. First, there was a choice of muesli with yoghurt and compote (delicious) or fresh tropical fruit (also nice), bread and pastries, orange juice or smoothie, and then tea or coffee.

Then came a hot option, although I didn’t feel like eating any of them: blueberry pancakes with blueberry compote; Spanish omelette; or a full English of scrambled eggs, Suffolk sweet-cured bacon, free-range Cumberland pork sausage, tomato and hash browns.

ARRIVAL

I started to watch another movie, although I knew I wouldn’t have time to finish watching it before landing at about 0020. There is a time difference of nine hours, and the captain said he expected us to be on the stand a few minutes ahead of schedule.

We landed at Narita at 0920 local time, taxiing to the stand in just a few minutes. Disembarkation was quick and efficient via an airbridge, and I was soon walking through the terminal to immigration. There were staff members on hand to direct people to the appropriate channels and check they had completed the correct forms – it was all very organised.

I was through in about ten minutes, whereby I headed to baggage reclaim. My case appeared quickly and I loaded it on to a baggage trolley, exiting into arrivals. From here, I headed downstairs via an escalator where another member of staff helped me on to it with my trolley (even though it seemed a bit precarious). Once in the station area below, I left the trolley and went down another set of escalators to the Narita Express platform where trains serve the centre of Tokyo.

VERDICT

A punctual business class flight with excellent service from the friendly, attentive crew. There was a good selection of films on the IFE, the food enjoyable and the fully-flat seat fine for sleeping on, even though the product isn’t the airline’s newest on this plane.


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 £4,123 and £7,452 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT ba.com


Jenny Southan