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 outbound journey from London click here.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Moscow Domodedovo airport at 1640 for my 1805 departure on flight BA873 (note that traffic in Moscow can be terrible so allow plenty of time to get to the airport – it took more than an hour and a half on this Tuesday afternoon). I put my bags through a scanner and proceeded to BA’s check-in zone (desks 59-63, comprising one bag drop, two business and two economy). I was dealt with quickly. There was a dedicated immigration/security section for business class passengers so I proceeded through this. I had my passport checked at immigration, which was quiet, then again just before security, where I had to go through a body scanner. I was airside just after 1700.
THE LOUNGE BA’s lounge is immediately after security and is a bright, spacious venue with wicker chairs, big windows offering runway views, free wifi, hot and cold food, soft and alcoholic drinks, showers, flatscreen TVs and a business area with PCs. There was an announcement that the flight would be delayed by 35 minutes so I grabbed a drink and some nuts and did some work.
BOARDING The flight was called at 1815. Gate 13 was a five-minute walk away downstairs and I joined the priority lane for business class passengers. A queue had built up on the airbridge and I was in my upper deck seat at 1830. I had my coat taken by friendly staff and was offered a welcome drink of champagne, juice or water.
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 – as on my outbound flight, I had been allocated 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 good choice because it is in a 2-2 configuration, rather than 2-4-2, and is spacious with a wide aisle. While I was very comfortable in my aisle seat, I would probably go for a window one given the choice because, from experience, 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 length, you wouldn’t need to worry too much 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 There was a long delay after pushing back as the pilots were waiting for confirmation of the plane’s weight and balance. We took off at 1920. Drinks were served about 20 minutes later, and menus and amenity kits (containing socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and Elemis products) were handed out. About 40 minutes after take-off there was an announcement that there was a problem with the IFE system and it would need to be reset, which took about 20 minutes.
The meal service began 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 there was a choice of Severn and Why smoked salmon with Royal Belgian Oscietra caviar served with a shot of Russian Standard Imperia or Chase English vodka, or Quickes cheddar mousse with walnut crumble and an orange and beetroot salad. I had the latter and thought the mousse was a little bland but the beets were nice. It was served with a fresh and crunchy green salad. A selection of warm breads were also brought around – I had a nice sun-dried tomato one.
The mains were seared fillet of Herefordshire beef with parmesan crust, celeriac dauphinoise and savoy cabbage, corn-fed chicken with mustard and dill, roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables (I had this and found it tasty), wholemeal pasta with spinach velouté, roasted leeks, squash and pine nuts, or a chilled salad of hot smoked salmon, Jersey Royal potato salad and watercress sauce.
For dessert there was white chocolate and ricotta mousse with fruits of the forest, a selection of fruit and chocolates, or a cheese plate – Bleu d’Auvergne and Barber’s 1833 cheddar with pumpkin seed flatbread and plum chutney. I went for this and thoroughly enjoyed it, accompanying it with a lovely glass of Warre’s 2006 port, having earlier had a Kir Royale made from Taittinger Brut Réserve NV Champagne. The other wines available were Pouilly-Fumé 2010, Domaine Lebrun, Loire; Eos Estate Private Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Paso Robles, California; Chateau Malecasse 2007, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux; and La Crema Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast, California.
After eating I switched on the IFE screen and was surprised to see that my journey had more than 14 hours to go, according to the moving map info. Judging that I had somewhat less time than that, I watched half a film before the IFE was switched off prior to landing.
ARRIVAL Having made up considerable time thanks to tailwinds, we touched down at Heathrow T5 at 1840 local time, 20 minutes behind schedule. I was quickly off the plane and my priority-tagged case arrived shortly after I reached baggage reclaim.
VERDICT BA is certainly differentiating itself by offering a premium seat such as this on such a short flight. I didn’t have time to make use of the fully-flat bed but very much enjoyed the food, drink and service.
PRICE The lead-in Club World return fare for the new long-haul service is £1,116.
Report by Michelle Mannion