Is there a better way to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from London Heathrow than seated on the upper deck of a BA 747?
It may not be the most modern aircraft jostling for position on the taxiways at Heathrow before take-off. However, the 20 seat cabin has long been sought after for its private jet like experience where passengers sit oblivious to whatever is happening down below.
A flight from London Heathrow to Philadelphia, which is the subject of this review, marked a return to the upper deck after many flights with its younger upstarts the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380.
And what better way to sample BA’s new Club World service for the first time.
It made its debut on London Heathrow – New JFK in September 2017. Only very recently has it been extended to more routes, so London Heathrow to Philadelphia was the author’s first opportunity to try the new service.
Would it live up to the hype? Would BA be able to resist the temptation to pare back the service after launch? What about reports of the meal service taking 3 hours?
First, let’s dispense with the routine pre-flight formalities.
Check-in was quick and painless. Fast Track security could have been quicker as only one of two lanes was open. Staff members with tape measures were spotted in the Galleries lounge, so perhaps some modifications are forthcoming. Priority boarding at T5C was swift with group boarding in operation. Take-off was delayed due to congestion at Heathrow.
New BA Club World catering & bedding
As mentioned earlier, the new Club World service has only recently been extended beyond New York JFK. BA uses two caterers at Heathrow for long-haul flights. Do & Co for New York JFK and Gate Gourmet for the remaining routes.
There has long been in a difference in the quality between the two, with Do & Co markedly better. Contrary to some claims online, the menus and food quality have improved on routes catered by Gate Gourmet with the new style catering. A review of the new catering from New York JFK will be published next week.
BA is also rolling out new amenity kits and bedding from The White Company across all long-haul routes, albeit at a different pace to the new catering. So for now it is possible to have both, one and not the other, or neither at all!
The structure of the service is fundamentally the same: Pre-take off drinks of champagne, orange juice or water; post take-off drinks and nuts; a three course meal and coffee; and Afternoon Tea served approximately 90 minutes before landing.
However, there are radical improvements in presentation. Gone are the post take-off sachets of nuts. There is new tableware and glassware. Starters and desserts are now chosen from a cart in the aisle. One small change from the initial launch is that individual miniature salt and pepper mills have been removed and reverted back to paper sachets.
Here is the menu for BA67 from London Heathrow to Philadelphia which is also currently available on flights BA217 to Washington Dulles, BA295 and BA297 to Chicago O’Hare.
watercress panna cotta, purple potato salad, bergamot gel
Rosary Ash goat’s cheese
dark rye croûton, rhubarb chutney, candied walnuts
Wild mushroom soup
Fresh seasonal salad
butter beans, balsamic onion and radish salad, choice of raspberry dressing or honey and mustard dressing
Here are the post take-off nuts (sorry to disappoint American readers, they are not warmed) and the crayfish salad:
Moroccan sauce, lemon and herb couscous, chargrilled courgette
Braised British short rib of beef
red wine and onion jus, chantenay carrots, baby leaks, braised pearl barley
truffle cream sauce, piquillo peppers, roasted cauliflower florests
Here is the Braised British short rib of beef. I’ve experienced some very tough beef dishes on BA, but this was really good.
Caramelised orange tart
Light and dark chocolate délice
Warm chocolate and walnut brownie
vanilla crème anglaise
Blueberries and raspberries
Grapes, biscuits, apricot chutney
Here is the warm chocolate and nut brownie. I have simply no idea how two brownies ended up on the plate.
An individual selection of sandwiches featuring:
Succulent chicken breast with slow-roasted tomato, creamy Caeser dressing and wild rocket on bar-marked tortilla
Smoked salmon flakes with cucumber and lemon and dill creme fraiche dressing on wholemeal mini bridge roll
Brie with wild mushroom and cranberry sauce and rocket on brioche roll
Air-dried Cumberland ham, goat’s cheese mousse, black pepper and garlic salami, balsamic onion, fig chutney
Plain or fruit scones
served warm, clotted cream, strawberry preserve
Here is the afternoon tea. No more bread sandwiches wrapped in cellophane.
A lot of comment has been made online about the speed of service as crew become familiar with new galley layouts and service routines. The service was completed in around 2 hours and there were no issues with the manner of delivery. However, the cabin was approximately 2/3rds full, which is very rare for the upper deck. The most senior crew member, the Customer Service Manager, was also providing assistance to the two crew members who are normally assigned to the upper deck.
If I was to make two complaints: There is still only one choice of coffee. You still have to fly First Class if you want an espresso or cappuccino. This is absurd given the choice passengers have every day on the ground.
BA also has a curious obsession with serving Afternoon Tea. It’s everywhere. It’s in the lounges. It’s in Club Europe, Club World, First and (of sorts) in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus. Of course, no-one who actually lives in London ever eats Afternoon Tea. Personally, it should be ditched altogether.
Amenity Kits and Bedding
The new bedding and amenity kits from The White Company were also available.
The bedding is vastly better than before. `A single blanket has been replaced with a separate mattress, blanket and duvet. All three are left bagged together on your seat before boarding.
The larger pillow in particular makes for a much more comfortable flight, both seating and sleeping. Even on a day flight, it makes a huge difference.
The contents of the amenity kit are broadly the same as the Elemis kits they replace.
In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity
The refurbished 747 features the Panasonic eX3 IFE system. This the best system BA uses and is demonstrably reliable and responsive. It is a little infuriating that this particular 747 is not yet equipped with WiFi.
This flight is operated with one of BA’s 18 refurbished Boeing 747s, with 86 business class seats. Overall the cabin and washrooms were in very good condition, as you should expect.
Club World has always offered a very civilised and peaceful way to cross the Atlantic with the professionalism and efficiency you expect from BA.
The new catering is probably some of the best in more than 12 years of flying in BA Club World. The new bedding is also a huge improvement. Whilst many are eagerly awaiting a Club World new seat in 2019, it is still a great experience. BA has always been at its best showing it really understands the needs of passengers and offering solid professional consistency. Hopefully, this is the start of a period of continuous improvement, rather than a one-off.
Also, in the absence of the all business class airline ever gaining traction and doubts over BA’s own Club World London City service, the 20 seat upper deck is something you’re never going to see again once the Boeing 747 is retired, so enjoy it whilst it lasts.
Disclosure: This review was carried out as part of self-funded trip.
More to read on BA Club World:
- British Airways modifies new Club World meal service
- BA’s New Club World Service – One Year On
- BA Club World Montréal – London Heathrow Reviewed
- BA Club World London Heathrow – Montréal Reviewed
- BA Club World Catering: New York JFK – London Heathrow
- BA’s new Club World catering & bedding reviewed
- BA adds new Club World catering to more routes
- New BA Club World catering on London Heathrow – New York JFK
- The White Company comes to BA Club World
- BA plans new food & beverage and in-flight amenities for Club World