British Airways B747-400 Club World04/10/2012
BACKGROUND On March 25 BA will switch its thrice-daily London-Moscow route to a long-haul service, deploying four-class B747s (on the first daily flight) and three-class B767s (on the other two flights) instead of two-class 767s and A320s – for more information click here. It is the first time the airline will have offered First and Club World on the London-Moscow route, and the shortest flight on which the airline will offer fully-flat beds. Business Traveller was on a preview flight to showcase the new route this week – for a review of the return journey click here.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow T5 at 0700 for my 0840 departure on flight BA872. As I was a guest of the airline, I checked in at the first class desks at the far right-hand end of the terminal. I proceeded through the fast-track lane at security, which didn’t take long to clear, and turned right immediately afterwards into the South Galleries lounges.
THE LOUNGE Much has been written on this site about BA’s lounges at T5 – for more information click here. This morning I had access to the First Galleries lounge – it was spacious and peaceful and I grabbed a couple of pastries and a coffee (hot and cold breakfast items were on offer as well as soft and alcoholic drinks).
BOARDING At 0815 I made my way to gate A18, a couple of minutes away, and boarded immediately, taking the stairs to the upstairs Club World section. Staff were welcoming and I was offered champagne, water or juice.
THE SEAT The upper deck of the B747 has five rows of business (60-64) configured 2-2 (A-B, K-J). Window seats A and J face backwards and aisle seats B and K face forwards – I was in aisle seat 64B. For a seat plan click here.
The seat has been reviewed many times before on this site – click here for examples. It is a comfortable seat upholstered in fabric with leather armrests, which meets with a fold-down footstool in front to make a fully-flat bed. It has audio-video on-demand in-flight entertainment (IFE) with a good-size fold-out touchscreen, in-seat power, a fold-down table that slides in and out, a drawer at foot level for your laptop and other items, and a privacy screen to separate you from your neighbour.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Club World on the upper deck of the B747 is a winner because it is in a 2-2 configuration, rather than 2-4-2, and is nice and spacious with a wide aisle. While I have flown Club World several times, this was the first time I had flown in an aisle seat. I had a very comfortable flight, though would probably go for a window one given the choice because they feel a little more tucked away – upper deck window seats also have an extra storage bin by the wall. Admittedly, with some window seats in Club you would have to climb over the legs of the aisle passenger if they were in bed position (that wouldn’t apply in rows 62 and 64 as they are by the emergency exit and back of the cabin respectively), but on a day flight of this duration, one wouldn’t need to worry unduly about that.
There are washrooms at the front and back of the cabin, with the galley also at the back, so you might find it a little quieter towards the front of the cabin, though if you are at the back you will get to disembark first.
THE FLIGHT We pushed back on time and took off at 0855. Shortly afterwards we were given an amenity kit containing socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and Elemis products (this being such a short flight, I didn’t make use of any of it, though it was a nice touch) a hot towel (very soggy) and a menu.
The meal service started about an hour after take-off. The menu stated this was the airline’s new “Height Cuisine” selection designed to maximise taste at altitude: “We’ve been taking a long, hard look at dining and drinking in the air, and our team of chefs has set to work to bring you simple, authentic dishes and flavours that work well at 30,000 feet,” it said.
To start, the choice was fresh fruit or soused herrings with Royal Belgian Oscietra caviar and mustard potato salad served with a shot of Russian Standard Imperia or Chase English vodka. To get into the Russian spirit I opted for the latter dish – I have to admit that the fish was too strong for me at this time of the morning, and I didn’t manage much of it, but I thought it was generous in size and well presented, and the potato salad was tasty. I also doubted my own sanity with the first sip of the vodka, but it was certainly warming and the rest of it went down somewhat easier. The starter came with a large bowl of fruit compote, yogurt and granola.
The main course was a choice of scrambled eggs with fillet of beef, lamb croquette, mushrooms, tomato and bubble and squeak; cinnamon and apple toasts with blueberry compote and cinnamon butter; a Spanish-style potato omelette with mushrooms, tomato and spinach (I had this and it was enjoyable); or a continental breakfast with beef bresaola, smoked chicken, Bleu d’Auverne and Barber’s 1833 cheddar.
I bypassed the wine list and had a peppermint tea instead. Should I have wanted to indulge still further at this time of the morning, I could have chosen from Taittinger Brut Réserve NV Champagne; Pouilly-Fumé 2010, Domaine Lebrun, Loire; Eos Estate Private Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Paso Robles, California; Chateau Malecasse 2007, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux; or La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast, California. More drinks were offered, along with a selection of warm breads and pastries.
After eating I switched on the IFE screen and was surprised to see that only an hour and a quarter remained of the journey (tailwinds made it shorter than usual). The moving map wasn’t working so I switched on a film, thinking I might watch half of it – in the event the picture was quite dark so I opted to listen to Kate Bush’s new album from the selection of new music releases. Before I knew it we were being offered more hot towels (not so soggy this time) before coming in to land.
ARRIVAL We landed half an hour ahead of schedule at 1610 local time and were off the plane quickly. This being special circumstances, we were led through a VIP immigration channel so I didn’t witness regular immigration.
VERDICT A luxurious way to experience a short flight, with a spacious cabin, fully-flat seat, AVOD entertainment and a high-quality food and drink service. The only shame was that I didn’t really have enough time to make the most of it all.
PRICE The lead-in Club World return fare for the new long-haul service is £1,116.
Report by Michelle Mannion