British Airways B747-400 economy class09/07/2014
I checked in online within 24 hours of my departure and accepted the seat I had been assigned (41A). I also input my requested passport information and selected the option of collecting my boarding pass at the airport, as I didn't have access to a printer.
I arrived at Terminal 1 of Dubai International airport at 2345, with just over two hours until my 0155 flight (BA106) to London Heathrow. The British Airways check-in/bag-drop area was in Zone B, and there were only a few people ahead of me when I got there so I was quickly seen to and my suitcase tagged and boarding pass issued.
I then had my boarding pass scanned at a nearby checkpoint, before going through to join one of the lines for passport control. It took about ten minutes to get through, followed by a quick security check where laptops and liquids needed to come out. I then followed the signs to departures, via various areas that were undergoing construction work, downstairs, along some corridors and then back up some escalators into duty-free.
Departure screens showed my flight as boarding from Gate C11 at 0100, so I headed down there at the appropriate time and went through another security check after having my documents checked by BA staff. There was a spacious waiting area for travellers with lots of seating and views on to the stands, although at this time of day there wasn’t much to see as it was dark outside.
Families with small children, as well as first and business class customers, were called first, followed by those in World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy) according to row numbers from the back. As I was sitting near the front of economy, I was one of the last to board but when I got to my row, I found a small child sitting in my seat. The parents asked if I could sit somewhere else as they were a family so I spoke to a member of crew who took over and a lengthy drama unfolded.
The various family members were shuffled around, other passengers were asked to move, there were more complaints, I was promised a World Traveller Plus upgrade but then had it retracted as there turned out to be no free seats. Finally, another free window seat in economy, 41K, opened up and I sat there.
Once settled, I heard the woman in the aisle seat near me complaining to a perspiring member of crew (it was incredibly hot on board before take-off), that she had paid for a bulkhead seat (and was an Executive Club Bronze member) but was not seated in one. The crew explained very apologetically that there was nothing else that could be done as someone with a bad leg needed her spot by the bulkhead, and that she could complete a feedback form.
Economy class is laid out across two cabins – from rows 33-36, and 39-55. I was in 41K, a window seat near the front of the economy class cabin (there is another smaller World Traveller section beyond the galley (rows 33-36). Click here to see a seat plan.
Seat-back tray tables fold down and slide out, and there are personal 6.5-inch, touchscreen IFE monitors with a decent selection of new release movies. Luckily for me, the middle seat (41J) was free, which was a bonus, and armrests lifted up to allow for more room. I noticed that middle seats J and presumably B, have less space for your feet under the seat in front as there are boxes for the entertainment systems screwed to the side of the base.
All passengers are provided with a small pillow, a blanket wrapped in cellophane (though mine seemed to have been nabbed), a pack of toothpaste and a toothbrush, and a pair of over-ear headphones. As on the outbound service, I noticed this B747 looked quite tired and worn.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Rows 39 and 40 have extra legroom, although this has to be weighed up against the risk of having to put up with a crying baby in one of the bassinets the whole way. For tall people, sitting here is more about not having your knees pressed up against the back of the seat in front than enjoying a significant amount of space to extend your legs.
Unless you have an eyemask/earplugs, you may find light and noise from the galley a distraction if you are trying to sleep. On a night flight such as this, it is best to sit further back and in an aisle seat, as once people are asleep, it is really hard to step over them without waking them every time you need to get up. That said, if you don’t want to be the one being climbed over the whole way, go for a window seat.
The back row goes up to 55 in the middle (seats D-E-F-G), while the final row on either side is 53, with just pairs of seats (B-C and H-J). Seat 51B, 51J, 52B and 52J feel more spacious as they are set away from the side of the plane.
There are four washrooms at the back and two by the galley. Avoid row 55 as you may suffer disturbance from toilets being flushed behind you and people queuing. Unless you are travelling as a couple or a group, avoid middle seats B, E, F and J. Seats at the back of the plane can suffer more bumps and shakes as turbulence is felt more acutely at the aft.
After a safety demonstration video, the plane pushed back at 0200, taking off about ten minutes later. At about 0220, I was given a bottle of Cava by a member of crew and a bag of nuts by way of apology for the seat situation. He also offered the woman in the aisle seat one, but she declined and went to sleep.
Soon after, I was given a (pre-ordered vegetarian) snack box containing a small salad roll and a weird hollowed out apple with raisins inside – neither of which I bothered eating. About 20 minutes later, I was offered another round of drinks and a choice of tea or coffee.
I finished watching a film I began on the outbound flight and then settled down to try and get some sleep. The cabin lights were dimmed at about 0300. I managed to get a bit of rest but kept getting a rick in my neck (neck cushions don’t help me either) and the guy behind me insisted on having his window blind open the entire way, letting in loads of bright sunlight after dawn – this was extremely annoying as I had no sleep mask with me.
Breakfast was served at about 0630 but as I was desperately trying to sleep, I didn’t even see what was on the tray.
The plane started its descent 45 minutes away from Heathrow, at about 0815, with a landing anticipated at 0900 (0600) local time. We landed as predicted, and after a few minutes taxiing to the stand, were soon able to disembark by an airbridge to Terminal 5. There was a long walk to passport control, but I was through quickly thanks to being able to use the e-gates. Downstairs, there was a 15-minute wait for my suitcase to appear on the carousel.
The seating situation upon boarding the aircraft was a shambles, although the crew really did do their utmost to appease everyone, and it was more the fault of the passengers than BA.
Taking this night flight is arduous in economy as the relatively short length of the flight (about seven hours) and uncomfortable seat mean most people won’t arrive feeling refreshed. I had to go straight to the office and spent most of the day battling tiredness. If you can, book the daytime service (0930-1355) as it is far more civilised.
- SEAT CONFIGURATION 3-4-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F-G, H-J-K)
- SEAT WIDTH 17.5in
- SEAT PITCH 31in
- SEAT RECLINE 5in
- PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight to Dubai in August ranged between £725 and £1,797 depending on flexibility.
- CONTACT ba.com