London Heathrow – Miami is a good illustration of the vagaries of flying BA.
BA operates three return flights a day, all now with a Boeing 747 so passengers should know with confidence to expect. Right? Well, not quite.
It’s perfectly feasible that three groups of passengers all taking different BA flights on the same day could each report different experiences.
The reason being that only some of the 52 Club World seat aircraft that serve this route have been fully refurbished with new in-flight entertainment systems. Some have had just a light interior refresh. Others have not been refurbished at all in ten years due to their imminent retirement. And you’ll only know what you’re getting once you’ve stepped on board the aircraft.
Let’s take a look at one early morning departure from London Heathrow Terminal 3:
After a quick check-in at a reasonably busy Heathrow Terminal 3 for an early morning, it’s to the lounge.
It’s received wisdom that any passengers flying Oneworld from Terminal 3 with lounge access should head to either the Cathay Pacific or Qantas lounges.
However if you want to download reading material from PressReader at the airport you need to use the BA lounge WiFi. A couple of tips: you do need allow for a generous amount of space on your device and a good amount of time to download as it does take more than a few minutes.
To boarding, BA has for some time been using the grouping system for boarding aircraft. One weakness is that the relative numbers of passengers eligible for Group 1 boarding can vary widely by route. As Miami is an American Airlines stronghold, there are a lot of Oneworld Emerald cardholders eligible for Group 1 boarding on this route.
Moving straight to the Upper Deck, this particular aircraft had received an interior refresh with new carpets and seat covers.
It certainly showed and overall the cabin was in a very good condition.
Food and Beverage
Due to a passenger on the aircraft having an airborne nut allergy, the traditional post-take off nuts were replaced with pretzels.
Here’s the menu for the main meal service, which is now all delivered by hand on trays from the galley, rather than from display trollies for starters and desserts.
- Chicken and wild mushroom terrine, sweetcorn puree and chargrilled ciabatta
- Croxton Manor cheddar and spring onion cheesecake with sweet cucumber pickled
- Spinach and watercress soup with thyme croutons
- Seasonal salad leaves with vegetable slaw served with your choice of Balsamic Dressing or Pesto Dressing
Here’s the terrine:
- Seared fillet of British beef with roasted potatoes, parsnips and horseradish jus
- Corn-fed chicken breast with crushed new potatoes, ratatouille and green beans
- Ricotta tortellini with pea velouté, chargrilled asparagus and black olives
Here’s the beef. It was by no means the worst, but not the best, beef dish served in recent times in Club World. Like most Heathrow long-haul routes for now, this flight is catered by Gate Gourmet. Do&Co, which has catered Heathrow – New York JFK for a while, are progressively taking over catering for BA long-haul routes. Its beef dishes are markedly better.
- Gateau opera
- Lemon, blackcurrant and almond cremeux
- Warm sticky toffee and date pudding with vanilla crème anglaise
- Blueberries and raspberries
- Belton Farm Red Fox, Normandy Camembert, Wensleydale Blue served with pecan nuts, biscuit and Quince Jelly
This is the Gateau opera which, as you can see, is tiny. This is most likely due to the fact that were supposed to be able to choose desserts from a display trolley. If you have a sweet tooth and want another, then just ask.
As is standard for most day flights, Afternoon Tea is served around 90 minutes before landing. It comprises:
Aberdeen Angus beef, creamy Dijon mayonnaise, caramelised red onion chutney, wild rocket on focaccina roll
Seasoned free-range egg mayonnaise, salad cress, slow-roasted tomato, Greek feta cheese on a soft tomato tortilla wrap
Scottish smoked salmon, creamy soft cheese, lemon dressing, cracked black pepper on mini bagel.
Plus scones and Farmhouse cake.
In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity
This was a real let down.
This aircraft used the old Rockwell Collins system which was installed well over ten years ago. It failed during the safety demonstration, so the crew had to do a manual demonstration.
The moving map also didn’t work – not good for OCD passengers who can’t bear to go without knowing the progress of the flight!
The rest of the audio and video content did work, but the system wasn’t particularly responsive and the picture quality was borderline VHS. The 20 seat Upper Deck of the 747 is of course largely full of seasoned BA flyers and judging by the number of tablets in use, most had wisely made their own provisions.
The at seat power had also not been upgraded with USB charging points, which was a minor irritation. There was of course no WiFi either.
As with all Club World flights passengers are offered a White Company amenity kit and bedding:
A few other thoughts..
In terms of in-flight service, the two crew members serving the Upper Deck could not be faulted.
Sometimes you only appreciate the advances in aircraft design when you go back to flying on older aircraft. On this occasion, the cabin air did feel very dry. The complimentary bottles of Harrogate Spring water were certainly put to use.
Finally, BA is of course rolling out a new Club World cabin from later this year, which won’t feature on the Boeing 747.
This cabin will feature direct aisle access for all, but at a price of your feet being encased in the seat in front. One thing that will be missed from the current Club World cabin is all this free leg room….
The only practically useful information for arriving at Miami is that you never have the same experience twice.
When you arrive you have to take an shuttle train to immigration. What happens then depends on the day. Sometimes you are directed to use machines. Other times not.
On this occasion, the entire process was handled by immigration officers and it was almost suspiciously quick. Baggage delivery did take a while, however.
If you are connecting to another flight at Miami, as is standard procedure in the US you have to collect and recheck your bags even if they have been tagged to your final destination. However, there are no dedicated counters in arrivals for rechecking bags. You have to go up to the main departures concourse to recheck your bags and this can be extremely busy. If you have a connecting flight you are eligible to use the American Airlines Flagship lounge which we’ll review shortly.
Disclosure: This review was carried out as part of a self-funded trip.