British Airways B747-400 World Traveller (economy class)04/10/2012
CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 1445 in plenty of time for my 1705 flight BA85 to Vancouver. Having checked in online, I headed straight to one of the many fast bag-drop counters, which were quiet on this Wednesday afternoon, then proceeded to security. I was closest to the Security North zone but was told this was busy and to head to Security South at the other end of the terminal. This was quiet and the queue took little more than five minutes to get through – about the same as fast-track had taken when I travelled Club World from here a couple of weeks ago. I was airside by 1500 and went downstairs to the gate level, where I took a seat in the V Bar at the far right-hand end – a comfortable spot with a jazzy vibe and a good selection of food and drink. I had a drink and checked my emails (£3.95 for an hour’s access via Boingo). There was a departure screen in here too so I could keep an eye on my flight.
BOARDING I headed for the gate at 1620 (it had opened at 1600), taking the lift down to the transit for the Satellite B building, then up two flights of escalators to the gate area. Gate B43 was at the far end and after popping into a shop, I arrived there at 1635, just as boarding was beginning. There was a fast-track lane for First and Club World which many economy passengers joined without realising, and it took some time for staff to tell them it was the wrong queue. When the economy queue had subsided I joined it, grabbed a newspaper from a stand on the airbridge and turned right on entering the plane. I was in my seat by 1650.
THE SEAT This was a four-class B747-400 Mid-J configuration. For the seatplan, click here.
Economy was in a 3-4-3 configuration (ABC-DEFG-HJK). There were two economy cabins with rows labelled 28-37 and 39-53 (there were only three seats, HJK, in row 39, and there were no seats A or K in rows 28 or 51-53).
I was in seat 50D, which had been allocated to me when I checked in online. I had the option of changing it but was happy with it, always preferring an aisle seat on a night flight – and there wasn’t much choice left available to me anyway when I checked in, about five hours before the flight. The seat was comfortable and upholstered in blue fabric with a built-in headrest. There was a decent amount of legroom for economy and it reclined via a button in the armrest. The control for the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system was fitted to the armrest and there was a seatback screen ahead of me, with a magazine rack underneath. A warm blanket and a pillow were provided along with a good pair of headphones.
At the beginning of the flight the people in seats E and F next to me moved elsewhere, giving me more room to stretch out. However, my overhead locker wouldn’t open and my overhead reading light wasn’t working, so I had to strain to read when the lights went out. I also found the 3-4-3 layout very dense, and the narrow aisles meant people frequently bumped into me on their way to the toilets at the back.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? In my cabin, seats HJK in row 39 and ABC and DEFG in row 40 had the most legroom, being positioned at the front behind the bulkhead, although bear in mind that cots are placed here when necessary, and the galley is front of you so you may suffer disturbance. There wasn’t much to choose between the other seats – I’d avoid the back couple of rows as they are closest to the toilets. However, service started at the back so if you’re keen to get fed before anyone else, consider taking a seat towards the rear. In the front cabin, the top row, 28, offers the most legroom, as do A and K in row 29 as there are no seats in front of these. Avoid row 37 as you are in front of the toilets and won’t be able to recline your seat fully.
THE FLIGHT We pushed back at 1700 and were airborne shortly afterwards. A little while after take-off drinks were offered, followed by a meal service an hour and a half into the flight. There was a choice of chicken tikka masala or beef stew – I had the former and it was fine, if a bit dry. It was accompanied by a salad with a separate sachet of Italian dressing, a roll and a tasty white chocolate and raspberry mousse, and was served with plastic cutlery. I had a mini bottle of red wine with it, a 2008 Bordeaux, which was decent enough. Service was friendly and swift, with my tray taken away promptly when I was finished. I then settled down to watch a film from the audio-video on-demand IFE system – there was a good selection of new and recent movies – then took out my laptop to do some work. Surprisingly, the tray table was sturdier than the Club World one I had used a couple of weeks ago. Cabin crew came around periodically to offer water, which was appreciated. About an hour before landing a second meal service took place, consisting of a coronation chicken sandwich, a Kit-Kat and tea or coffee.
ARRIVAL We landed at Vancouver International airport at 1820 local time, 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and were off the plane ten minutes later. The airport was peaceful and nicely designed but very hot. Immigration was about five minutes’ walk away and the queue was lengthy but orderly – it took 25 minutes to get through. My bag was waiting on the carousel on the other side.
VERDICT A good-quality long-haul offering with a comfortable seat and a decent entertainment offering.
PRICE An economy return from London Heathrow to Vancouver in November started from £637 online.