British Airways B747-400 High J World Traveller Plus04/10/2012
First impressions I caught the airport express service from Hong Kong station (HK$100 one way), a comfortable service which takes less then half an hour. BA's twice-daily service between Hong Kong and London depart from Terminal 1, with the carrier's check-in counters at zone J.
Hong Kong International airport (also know as Chek Lap Kok) opened over a decade ago, but it still feels modern and spacious, and it's not hard to see why the facility fares well in the Business Traveller UK, Asia Pacific and China awards, voted for by our readers.
A friendly passport control employee laughed at my passport photo, saying that the shadow behind my head made it look like someone was creeping up behind me. The passport is nearly ten years old now and the photo probably wouldn't pass the current requirements. Security was quick, with laptops and coats off but shoes on.
Boarding Boarding started at 2245 for my 2325 departure from gate 17, and when I arrived I was able to board straight away. When seated the captain advised that the weather forecast for the journey was good, and that there would be no stacking at Heathrow, meaning a quick flight time of 12 hours 15 minutes. So quick in fact that it meant we had to sit at the stand for another 15 minutes, as otherwise we would have arrived in London before the allowed 0430 curfew at Heathrow.
The seat This flight was operated by BA's B747-400 in the High J configuration, where the World Traveller Plus seating is positioned between Club World and World Traveller on the main deck, and is configured for 30 seats - one front row of 1-4-1, and three rows of 2-4-2. I was in seat 30H, in the middle of the third row from the front.
Aside from the front row which offers more legroom due to the emergency exit, the seat offers a seat pitch of 38 inches, a width of 18.5 inches and a pitch of seven inches. Upgraded amenities compared to the World Traveller cabin include noise cancelling headphones, and a choice of newspaper offered before take off.
Which seat to choose? In this cabin, it has to be the two seats on their own on either side of the front row, at least if you are travelling alone. Not only do you have the privacy of not having anyone next to you, but you get the extra legroom because of the emergency exit. However to reserve these seats in advance costs £50 per flight (unless you are an Executive Club Gold member, in which case it’s free).
The flight There were a few empty seats in the World Traveller Plus, including the one to the right of me which meant I could put some of my belongings on it. Two other points to note - the aircraft did not have the new First seating installed, and one of the Club World seats was broken. This was made clear (in a fairly ugly way) by taping wrapped across it, making it look a little like a crime scene.
Food was offered soon after take off. Unlike on the outbound journey where the stewardess had explained exactly what was in the dish, in this case it was a case of “chicken or beef”. I chose the former, which turned out to be sweet and sour chicken with rice and sugar snap peas, and it wasn't great - the vegetables in particular were soggy and overcooked.
The AVOD in-flight entertainment offering was the same as the outbound journey, but as this flight was that bit later I decided to try and get some sleep, so after watching a couple of episodes of Friends and The IT Crowd I wrapped myself in the blanket and reclined the seat.
I managed to get a fitful night's sleep, but was feeling a bit groggy when breakfast (cooked English or Chinese noodles), so I passed on the main dish and just took the tray with the yoghurt, muffin and orange juice, plus a banana I had brought with me.
Arrival The captain has timed things perfectly, as we arrived at 4.32, around 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and were quickly on stand. From there it was a quick shuttle ride to the main terminal, through a deserted immigration (for once I didn't bother with IRIS as there were no queues at the manned desks), and straight out as I had hand luggage only. I was out of the airport before 0500.
Verdict The World Traveller Plus seat has the benefits of more legroom and a wider seat, plus the noise cancelling headphones, but the food was disappointing. A very smooth flight, and the bonus of an early arrival and no waiting in queues at Heathrow.