A Contrarian Review: BA Club World DFW-LHR

After my New Zealand trip, it felt like an eternity before I would get chance to go another flight. I know 2.5 months isn’t that long of time, but for a travel addict like myself, it’s a lifetime. Anyway our flights to London and onto Madrid couldn’t have come sooner.

Introduction: Spring break in Spain
British Airways Club World DFW-LHR
British Airways T5 Galleries South Lounge @ Heathrow
The Westin Palace Madrid
Renfe Business Class Madrid-Seville
Hotel Alfonso XII Seville
Strolling in Seville
Sights and Sounds of Majestic Madrid
Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid Barajas
Iberia Business Class Madrid-Barcelona
The W Barcelona
Exploring Gaudi’s Barcelona
The Hilton London Heathrow Airport T5
American Airlines New Business Class LHR-DFW

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Our flight to London-Heathrow was to depart at 4:20pm from DFW on Saturday morning so I bought the 11 am flight from Midland just to leave enough time in case there was a delay. The great thing about Oneworld is that they are usually able to book bags all the way through to the final destination, despite the segments being on separate tickets or record locators. In my experience, if you ask nicely enough they have continued to do this despite initial hesitation.

However there was some bad news recently on that front: Gary @ View from the Wing recently brought to light that this policy may soon change, which is a total bummer for those of us living near some of these smaller regional airports and buying tickets to connect to our award flights from major airports.

Anyway our connecting flight to DFW was on one of AA’s new Canadair Regional Jet 900s, which featured 3 classes: Economy, Premium Economy, and First class. I only say this because most AA flights out of Midland were previously operated on a rather cramped ERJ-145 aircraft. This is definitely a welcome change.

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Midland Airport is a relatively small airport with only 5 gates and jet bridges. Our flight was departing from Gate 5 this morning and appeared to be on time.

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There’s isn’t much plane spotting to do at Midland Airport given that the Southwest 737 is the largest aircraft servicing the airport, but I’ll just include a picture because I can.

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We were seated in Main Cabin Extra (owing to my Air Berlin Gold Card/Oneworld Sapphire) for the short 50 minute flight to DFW.  I was very impressed by how spacious the cabin was for a regional jet and the seats were brand new given that this was a new aircraft. 
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Unlike most regional jets, the carry ons easily fit in the overhead bins on this plane. This seemed to make a lot of passengers happy since they didn’t have to wait forever at the gate for bags in DFW.

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The flight from Midland to DFW went according to script: a quick 50 minute, uneventful, and smooth flight. Before we knew it we were in Dallas ahead of schedule.

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Since we had a decent amount of time to kill, we went out for lunch at Urban Tadka (an Indian restaurant nearby) using Lyft and hung out at the extremely crowded Centurion Lounge for a bit of time afterwards.

At around 3:30pm boarding was announced for our flight to London-Heathrow, and we proceeded to the gate just across from the Centurion Lounge. Though there was a somewhat of a line for boarding (BA has 70 seats in Club World on the 747), we were able to quickly make it on board.

As a oneworld elite (Air Berlin Gold), I was able to make seat reservations ahead of time, and snag coveted seats on the more private upper deck of the 747 . The cabin layout is in the 2-2 configuration on the upper deck with just 20 seats, as opposed to 2-4-2 on the lower deck. This makes for more personalized service, quieter cabin, and an awesome feeling as if you were on a private jet.

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I was seated in seat 60K (window seat), while Maanasa (my sister) was seated in 60J (aisle seat). As soon as we sat down we were offered drinks with the standard choices: champagne or orange juice. Having just had lunch an hour or so ago, I declined.

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The window seats in the Club World Cabin are extremely private with a nice divider which goes up at the press of a button. Though getting out in the middle of the flight means having to jump over someone’s legs, while seated with the divider up it feels pretty much like you are in your own suite. If you get a window seat in BA Club World, there really aren’t that many better business class seats out there.

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I must note though that there is a night and day difference between an aisle seat and a window seat in Club World. Aisle seats appear to be fully exposed, which can be an annoyance with passengers and crew going up and down the galley.

As we waited for boarding to be completed, I checked out the rest of the cabin. Since this was a BA 747, the side of the aircraft has tons and tons of storage space. The windows on the upper deck are lined with rather deep storage bins, which can easily hold your handbag, laptop, or other personal items.

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While the boarding was finishing up, I whipped out my laptop and got some more work done. As you can see in the picture below, there was plenty of space to set the laptop down while you are lounging in the seat.

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Amenity kits were distributed as passengers continued to settle into their seats.

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The BA amenity kit is nothing to write home about, but it does include all the essentials: dental kit, ear plugs, moisturizing lotion, lip balm, socks, and eye shades. The bag itself is nice enough to use as a shoe bag, or laundry bag of a sorts at the end of your trip. All items including the bag were Elemis branded as usual with BA.

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At around 4:20pm, the captain came on the speaker to welcome us on to this BA flight to Terminal 5 Heathrow. The captain went on to mention that they were loading the final bags onto the aircraft and should be underway soon. Flying time according to him would be 8 hours, which would bring us into Heathrow well ahead of schedule (British pronunciation) pending ATC conditions.

I always find it funny how BA is the only airline that makes announcements saying that they are flying to a terminal rather than a destination 🙂 I guess it just shows how proud they are of their terminal. Anyone else find that interesting?

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Sure enough at 4:30pm, on the dot, we began our push back from the gate, and the safety video started playing. Next to our gate were a Lufthansa A330 bound for Frankfurt, and a Qatar Airways 777 bound for Doha.

I find it quite amusing that British Airways has had the same safety video since the first time I flew them back when I was 16. I’m assuming they are trying to get into the hall of fame for longest running safety video?

After the safety video finished, we were almost halfway to runway 17R. And after 10 more minutes, we had a rather long take off roll before we were airborne.

About 20 minutes after takeoff, The two FAs working our cabin came around to take meal orders. I had ordered the Asian Vegetarian meal beforehand, but elected to stick to the Western option of pasta since I had already had Indian food earlier.

The menu (distributed earlier) read as follows (I’ll leave it to you guys to have a closer look):
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Here were the Vegetarian (NOT VEGAN) options on the menu:

DINNER

Starter

  • Pad Thai noodle salad w/ sweet chilli dressing

Main

  • Penne pasta with pesto cream sauce and baby spinach

Dessert

  • Cherry and Almond Slice with Sauce Anglaise
  • Cheddar and Brie Cheese with herbs served with golden fig preserves
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Tea, Coffee, and chocolates

BREAKFAST

Starter

  • Chilled fruit juice
  • Seasonal Fruit
  • Bircher Muesli

Bakery

  • Assorted Breakfast Pastries (Croissants, Cinnamon Rolls, Sweet Muffins)

Since this flight left at a rather early 4:30pm from DFW, dinner wasn’t served until about 2 or so hours into the flight, which was perfectly fine. Who wants to eat at 5pm anyway?

I began the flight by browsing the entertainment selection, which luckily featured a few movies I hadn’t seen. BA has a nice enough entertainment selection (beats the selection found on almost all European carriers except maybe Virgin Atlantic), though it is nothing compared to the likes of Emirates, Singapore, and Cathay.

I spent the first few hours of the flight watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, while working on some of my business school applications. It was a nice enough movie, but my opinion is best described by this:

 

Anyway as I was watching, meal service began with some packaged nuts and my order of Diet Coke, which were both served off a cart. I appreciate the quality and sanitary nature of the packaged nuts, but I still prefer the warm kind served on American, and United. Service on the other hand was extremely attentive with the crew swinging by to offer me another diet coke as soon as they noticed an empty glass. They pretty much kept my glass full throughout the meal service.

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A few minutes later my starter arrived which was a Cucumber-Tomato Salad, and a ratatouille consisting off sliced Zucchini, some asparagus, and a cherry tomato. There was also some warm bread, olive oil, raita, lime pickle, and butter served on the side to accompany the meal.

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I’m not a huge fan of salads served with a huge amount of lettuce and green leaves (which I coin as cheaping out), but this one seemed to offer somewhat more flavor with red peppers, and  cucumbers. 
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The ratatouille looked really nice, but I would say the flavor itself was average at best given the extremely rubbery pieces of asparagus.

DSC00145After I finished up the appetizer, the FA immediately picked up my empty plate and replaced it with the main entree: penne pasta with pesto cream sauce and baby spinach. I found the pasta to be actually fairly good given that I spiced it up with a lot of pepper, but I couldn’t really finish it in the end due to the lack of too much flavor.

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I ordered the cherry and almond cake with sauce anglaise for dessert. It was amazingly flavorful, and was pretty much the highlight of the meal. A few minutes after I finished my dessert, my tray was cleared and I was offered a bottle of water and some chocolates.

I really appreciate the efficiency with which this cabin crew cleared away trays because sometimes you are just left sitting there waiting to get the dinner trays cleared in order to get some work done or sleep for that matter. All in all, dinner service took about 45 minutes to complete, which left 6 hours of flying time.

After dinner, I reclined my seat and started to watch a rather slow episode of Doctor Thorne. One of the things I appreciate about BA is that they keep the cabin pretty cool, and offer a decent sized blanket. This combined with the fact that the seat itself offers a fairly decent cushion, makes it all the more easy to fall asleep.

I drifted off to sleep at some point during the episode of Doctor Thorne and woke up to find my seat in the fully lie flat position and my tv screen stowed.  I must have been really out of it to not even notice the FA come around and adjust my seat. Just as a comment about the seat: I never felt that the length of the seat was an issue. I’m about 6 feet tall in case you want a point of reference.

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Because I couldn’t sleep, I got my laptop out and started getting some more work done. The most annoying part about flying this aged aircraft was that the power port wasn’t working and the tray table itself appeared to be bent or slanted. It wasn’t too much of a hassle because I was all charged up, but simply annoying on the part of the slanted table.

As I worked I took a look at the air show. It looked like we were making good progress toward London, with just around 2.5 hours remaining.

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I have to complement the crew on this flight because as soon as I turned on my reading lamp, a FA (I wish I knew her name) came along asking if I would like a snack and some more Diet Coke to which I obliged. She came back a few moments later with a bag of potato crisps, 2 cookies, and 2 cans of diet coke. I guess she realized quickly that I was the largest consumer of Diet Coke on the plane ;).

I worked for almost 2 hours while watching our progress on the air show. At this point we were no more than an hour from Heathrow and breakfast service began.

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Since most of the cabin was asleep, the FAs didn’t turn on the lights and just went around offering orange juice or apple juice to those of us who were awake (which turned out to be just me). Since I was awake, I figured that I might as well have something to eat. I ordered the bircher muesli which was served with a warm cinnamon roll, and croissant, chosen from the bread basket. I also ordered some English breakfast tea with sugar to accompany the meal.

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Overall, I enjoyed the cinnamon roll and croissant, but left a majority of the muesli unfinished. It was too bland and not especially sweet despite my dumping some sugar in there.

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By the time I finished breakfast, the cabin lights had been turned on and I rolled up my window to have a peek outside. The sun appeared to have just risen over the British Isles.

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As I sat there admiring the light, the captain announced that we had begun our initial descent into London and to thank us for flying British Airways. He then went on to notify the cabin crew, in typical BA fashion :), that “it is now 40 minutes to arrival, that’s 40 minutes.”

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Unlike our previous descents into Heathrow, there was no circling around waiting for our turn to land. The sunrise over the city of London was quite the spectacle to watch as we made our final approach. I always choose to sit on the right side of the plane going into London because you can clearly see all the landmarks, from the O2 Arena to Westminster. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any better images because of the rather worn out and dirty nature of the outer portion of the window.

Maanasa (who was now awake) and I had fun playing our game of who could name more landmarks.  I won this round, like most other rounds we have played, but to give her credit this time: I was at an advantage with the window seat 🙂  Shortly after finishing our game, we had a smooth touch down in London.

Flying on the BA 747 upper deck was a special experience since it felt like a private jet with personalized service. I’ll be sad the day these jets are retired from the BA fleet. It already appears as though the 747 on the DFW route has been replaced with a 777 on each of the two daily departures.

Bottom Line:

Honestly, I don’t understand all the complaints about BA Club World. It sets out to do what a business class product should do (albeit without all the bells and whistles): offer a fleet wide flat bed experience, decent food, a cool cabin temperature, courteous service, a decent number of departures, and a good number of departure cities. . From my experience, service is always polite, professional, and responsive, which is not often the case on most U.S carriers. Sure you are not getting an experience like Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines, but you are never usually on a BA flight for more than 10 hours anyway. This is not mentioning the fact that BA often has awesome Club World sales where you can book flights for less than $1300 when bought in conjunction with AARP.

Given this there are two things they can do to pretty much make them the best: offer inflight WIFI, and somehow design the window seats and middle seats to where the passenger doesn’t have to jump over a sleeping passenger’s legs. They seem to be fixing one of the problems, but it appears that the second problem isn’t going to be fixed extensively enough. As a teetotaler and vegetarian, I simply don’t care for any of the Dom, Krug, or caviar in the world.  Just simply give me a lie flat seat at a reasonable price and you will surely earn my loyalty. BA has hit both of these marks beautifully as of late.

On another note, I would almost never use miles to buy a BA ticket unless it was an emergency given the high fuel surcharges. If you are in this predicament just keep following this blog or BoardingArea, we will keep you informed about any upcoming sales.

What do you think of the BA Club World experience? I would love to hear all of your thoughts.  

 

 

  • Kilburnflyer

    *British ISLES

    Good write up and a fair assessment of the product. Nice to see a US blogger that doesn’t automatically mud sling at BA (I’m looking at you Lucky)

    • grabamile

      Thanks for the spelling help 🙂 Yeah I am a fan of BA, they seem to have cleaned up their act in LHR as well with faster security lines etc.