British Airways B747-400 High-J Club World04/10/2012
FIRST IMPRESSIONS I had checked in online the day before and arrived at Hong Kong International airport at 2155 for the 2315 departure on BA26. There was no queue at the Club World check in, so I dropped off my bag, went through security and made my way to the lounge. BA has two lounges. The First lounge is immediately on the right (also for gold card holders in BA’s Exec programme), and a business class lounge down an escalator almost immediately outside the gates, which are usually 15 and 18.
THE LOUNGE There have been changes here in the last 12 months, as reported on Businesstraveller.com. Flights are called from both lounges.
BOARDING We were called from the lounge at 2245 and I walked down to Gate 18 which is at the far end of the terminal. There was priority boarding and I walked straight onto the aircraft and sat in seat 17A, a backward facing window seat. It was very warm on the plane, and there was a fairly strong, but pleasant to my mind, smell of roast beef. It wasn’t a surprise that it was on the menu we were handed before takeoff, or that despite a promise to myself that after a heavy week of dining in Hong Kong I would have the “Well Being in the Air” Selection, I ignored the Braised Halibut and plumped for the “Gin-soaked beef tenderloin”.
We took off on time, but the heat from the side panels at my feet grew stronger to the point that after the seatbelt sign has been extinguished, I went to the galley to mention how hot it was. The Purser was told, and said that it would probably rectify itself after 20 minutes, but if not, I could switch seats. Meanwhile the passenger in 18A, an extremely attractive lady who was wearing a lot less than me confirmed that it was too hot for her also. When the flight attendant came back saying the flight crew had confirmed a problem with a valve, I jumped at the chance of moving to an aisle seat in the front cabin of business class where the temperature was far cooler, and ended up in seat 14C.
THE SEAT Two seats to review for this flight, though my sojourn in 17A was brief. Normally window seats for a night flight are a pretty good choice since you are less likely to be disturbed. 17A isn’t ideal, being at the front of the cabin and so with your head close to the washroom, but I didn’t notice much noise, just the smell of beef slowly warming up and a lot of heat. For a seat plan of this configuration of the B747-400, known as High – J because of the number of business class (J) seats, click here.
We have reviewed the cabin may times in the last three years. Rather than repeating the general advice on where to sit - window or aisle, Main Deck or Upper Deck - click here to see the previous reviews.
It’s the first time in a while I have sat in the front cabin on a High-J configuration (i.e.: one with two cabins of business class on the main deck), and there’s a lot to be said for it. In row 14, where I was, you get a fair amount of noise from the galley, but row 13 is a gem because there is no pedestrian traffic coming through because you have the walls between business and first class in front of you, and a curtain and rope in the aisle (though the rope is only stretched across occasionally), and has a sort of “show” element to it.
We had been given an Elemis amenity bag containing socks, eye mask, ear plugs, moisturiser, hand wipes, lip salve, tooth brush and tooth paste. Service starts from the front cabin, so if you are hungry but also want to be undisturbed when asleep then the front cabin is a good choice.
MENU starters were Parma ham with pumpkin, pine nuts and soy bean salad or Arabic-style meze, though this had run out by the time I came to order. The fresh seasonal salad then led on to the main courses, which were the aforementioned: Gin-poached beef tenderloin with new potato demi-glace, carrots and courgette; braised halibut with lobster sauce and black olive and garlic mash; potato gnocchi with Mornay sauce and sautéed mushrooms and chilled main course salad of roast duck with pomelo and hoisin dressing. Dessert was a choice of rhubarb and ginger mousse flan with almond sauce and whipped cream, cheddar and blue cheese and a selection of fruit.
The food was served individually (i.e.: not for the trolley), though there was a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing by the cabin staff, and I got the impression that not enough of each choice was on board since there were lots of apologies about not having passengers first choice.
The wines on this flight were the same as on the way over: Champagne Lanson Black Label NV and Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV. The whites were Lovivalo 2009 Rueda, Spain; Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, South Australia (these two were available). Also mentioned on the menu, but unavailable were Chablis 2008, Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, Burgundy, France and Old Well House Grenache Blanc/ Chenin Blanc 2009, South Africa.
The reds were Saint-Joseph 2006, Cave Saint-Desirat, Rhone; Ermita de San Felices 2007 Crianza, Rioja; La Puerta Malbec Reserva 2008, Famatina Valley, Argentina and Langmeil Three Gardens “SGM” 2007 Barossa Valley, Australia.
Around 0130 Hong Kong time I reclined my seat and went to sleep for just under eight hours without being disturbed. I woke as the cabin lights were switched back on for breakfast which was around 0300 London time, some 90 minutes before arrival.
BREAKFAST A choice of chilled fruit juice, energising fruit smoothies of strawberry and banana and apple or Birchermuesli with strawberries. There was a selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries. Main courses were English breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms and grilled tomato or a mushroom frittata with mushroom sauce and spinach; stir fried thin noodles with chicken and dim sum. After the beef the night before I managed to say no to this.
ARRIVAL We arrived a few minutes early and were quickly on our stand on Satellite B at T5. At immigration, the IRIS scanner wasn’t working and there was a short but bad-tempered queue of frequent travellers waiting to be processed, including the lady from 17A, so I didn’t ask her if the cabin had cooled down in the end. By the time we had all been processed, the bags were on the carousel.
VERDICT Again, excellent, though I was lucky there was a spare seat, I doubt I could have slept in that heat. Service was efficient, and happy to help, even with a last minute duty free purchase.
PRICE A mid-week return in August from ba.com starts at HK$44,605 (£3,597).