Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B777-200 Club World (four-class)

26/09/2013

BACKGROUND

This was the return flight from Chengdu in China, my having taken the inaugural flight out a few days later. For a review of that flight, click here.

BA departs from the international terminal (Terminal 1) of Shuangliu International Airport. Terminal 2 is for domestic departures – don't go to the wrong one in the taxi. If you do, a golf cart runs between the two for 10RMB (£1).

Chengdu is BA's fourth route to China (after Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai). The flight schedule is as follows:

Flight number

From/to

Local departure time

Local arrival time

Days of the week

BA89

Heathrow – Chengdu

15:30

08:55 (the following day)

Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday

BA88

Chengdu – Heathrow

10:55

15:00

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I arrived at the international terminal at 0820 for the 1055 departure and was quickly checked-in.

Chengdu Airport BA check in

The airport wasn't crowded, but it still took a while to have our passports checked.

Chengdu Airport

So I took some photos of the airport while we waited. There was plenty of BA advertising material — I particularly liked the one below.

BA poster in Chengdu airport

 

It was then a short walk through immigration (I stopped taking pictures at this point, for obvious reasons). Security then took about another ten minutes, so it was perhaps 20 minutes in total to get airside. I then made the short walk to the lounge used by BA (and all other international carriers).

THE LOUNGE

BA has the use of two lounges – one almost immediately after security by Gate 101 and one by Gate 107 – they are roughly the same size as one another, but both will get full when the flights fill up since they are used by the other airlines as well.

BA lounge at Chengdu airport

Lounge at Chengdu airport

There is a third overspill lounge, which it is possible BA will use if necessary, and then a fourth Star Alliance (Air China) lounge. The lounges are adequate, though to use the wifi you need a mobile with a Chinese SIM card for some reason. And note that there will not be enough seats, since each lounge seats around 24 people, and there are 40-plus Club World seats and 11 First, with of course Gold and Silver card holders also wanting access. 

BOARDING

Boarding takes place at Gate 104, at the end of the terminal. As it is one of only two gates at this international terminal that are big enough for wide-bodied aircraft (106 is the other), Qatar and KLM depart from here as well.

It was quite crowded and exotic because of a delayed Air China flight with a large group of pilgrims in national dress taking the opportunity to have family picnics on the airport concourse.

THE SEAT

Although this was the inaugural, we were on a standard four-class — economy, premium economy, business and first — B777-200 aircraft. To see a seatplan, click here.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

On the way out I had been in window seat 11K, but there had been a fault with the IFE and I wasn't convinced it would have been fixed. So I moved over to 14A. As it turned out, this was a different aircraft (same type, though) not painted with a panda's face, so changing seats was unnecessary.

If I had a complete choice I would have gone one further back and chosen 15A for a window seat and unimpeded access to the aisle (i.e. not stepping over the feet of the passenger on the aisle). But I was very comfortable in 14A and since we had the same crew as we had flown over with a few days earlier, gave me a chance to meet "the other side of the aircraft".

THE FLIGHT

Shortly after take-off we were given our Elemis amenity bags with flight socks, ear plugs, eye mask, lip salve, moisturiser, hand and body lotion, eye gel and a facial wipe. The menus were given out with this, and so please feel free to skip the next bit if you're not interested.

For once I was very interested — having eaten Sichuan food for two days, I was looking for something with a flavour other than extremely spicy.

FOOD AND DRINK

Starter

  • Seared peppered tuna with celeriac remoulade
  • Grilled courgette with mixed peppers and black olive tapenade
  • Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette

Main course

  • Pan-fried fillet of beef with red wine sauce, potatoes au gratin and sautéed spinach
  • Seared fillet of salmon with Kung Pao sauce, steamed rice and vegetables (which was delicious)
  • Ricotta and pinach ravioli with tomato sauce and Paremsan
  • Chilled main course salad of grilled baby chicken, feta, roasted sweet potatoes and baby spinach

Dessert

  • Baked lemon tart with strawberry coulis
  • Stilton and Aged Cheddar cheese with dried apricot, prunes and walnuts
  • A selection of fruit

Champagne cocktails

  • Kir Royal or Buck’s Fizz

Champagne

  • Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne

Wines

  • Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc, 2012, Languedoc, France
  • Tiki Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Red - Chateau Cissac 2009, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France
  • Red - Simon Hackett Hills View Shiraz 2011, McLaren Vale, South Australia

I wasn't drinking on this flight, and wished that BA had a non-alcoholic lager. Becks Blue would be fine, Lufthansa serves a non-alcoholic Warsteiner which is also delicious.

The service was excellent – without asking I was served the tonic and given an extra can to keep me going until lunch was served – thoughtful, and generous, setting the tone for the flight to come.

Despite being a day flight, I wanted to sleep, and so reclined the seat flat and slept for nearly five hours. When I woke I was a bit disorientated by the Journey Map since it showed up arriving 90 minutes earlier than I had thought, but my neighbour told me he'd already inquired and the computer was wrong.

I read for a bit, then went to the Club Kitchen which was well stocked with drinks, crisps, honey roasted cashew nuts, yoghurts, fresh fruit, cartons of cut fruit and more substantial sandwiches and wraps.

About two hours before landing we had more food. The light meal included beef carpaccio with Paremsan and extra virgin oil or pickled Chinese mushrooms with chilli and sesame dressing for starters. The mains menu consisted of fried seabass with yuxiang sauce, steamed rice and back sesame seeds; spinach cannelloni with ricotta cheese; roasted marinated ginger chicken with a chilled noodle salad and sesame dressing; and chicken, mozzarella and pesto sandwich on toasted rye bread. This was followed by fresh cut seasonal fruit. 

ARRIVAL

We landed very early — around 1430 — but then had a long taxi since our stand on Satellite C was occupied. We arrived on-stand on time and had an uneventful shuttle train ride back to the main terminal.

I didn't have any bags to pick up and used the new ePassport gates, enjoying the five-minute wait for them only because it’s astonishing how many different ways people can mess up using them. I was then quickly landside for the journey back into London on the Piccadilly Line. MEanwhile elsewhere in the airport there were long queues apparently, but I didn't see this. 

VERDICT

A great flight – lots of good food, very good service and we arrived on time.

Tom Otley
 

To discuss this new route on our forum, click here.