*DEAL GONE* Outrageously cheap airfare! Amsterdam or Brussels to Tokyo in Business Class (roundtrip) for £550!
January 12, 2017
REVIEW – Conrad Singapore
January 21, 2017
*DEAL GONE* Outrageously cheap airfare! Amsterdam or Brussels to Tokyo in Business Class (roundtrip) for £550!
January 12, 2017
REVIEW – Conrad Singapore
January 21, 2017

REVIEW – British Airways : Club World Business Class – London Heathrow to Singapore (A380)

British Airways (BA)


After a mad dash we arrived at the gate only to see that “gate closing” wasn’t quite true. There was still a very large line of  Economy class passengers and a number of Business passengers were still lining up to board.

This was actually my first time flying in Business Class on an A380, after numerous A380 flights in First it felt a bit strange seeing so many people and seats in a space that holds so few on other airlines.

The BA A380, much like their B747, offers a distinctly superior proposition on the upper deck. The seating is arranged in a 2-3-2 formation as opposed to the 2-4-2 found in most BA Club World cabins. In addition to making the cabin feel far less cramped, the removal of the fourth centre seat also eliminates the awkward possibility of ending up in a weird ‘honeymoon seat’ with a total stranger.

The finishes on the A380 are noticeably newer and more stylish than on on the 777

BA A380 Upper deck Club World window seat, with standard BA ‘dog blanket’

Another cool thing about the upper deck is that the seats have a ton of storage space. One of the things that bothered me the most when I first tried BA Business class was that there is almost no storage and the one small drawer is almost impossible to access in bed mode. Here on the A380 upper deck every window seat gets two giant storage bins which can be accessed throughout the flight.

The view through the divider of my window seat. As you can see, when the divider is down you are up close and personal with the seat mate who faces you.

Immediately upon boarding I was offered a PDB and had my jacket hung. I opted for water, in a bid to rehydrate after numerous G&Ts in the lounge 🙂

The side bins are very deep. I found that there was more than enough space for all of my belongings…

…especially since you get two massive bins per person!

As well as increasing storage and giving you a greater feeling of space (you are no longer pressed up against the windows), the side bins also serve as extra counter space.

Another upper deck advantage: when travelling with a companion, you can take two window seats and the person in front can easily turn back and talk to the other.

Unlike the 777, the privacy screen controls are clearly visible on the A380 (pro-tip: on the 777 the controls are located on top of the dividing wall)

The brand new Thales IFE system controller is very responsive and in some ways I prefer this to other, fancier looking, touch-screen controllers which often wind up lagging or glitching out.

Empower socket and USB socket.

The tiny storage drawer, all you get in a middle seat or downstairs window and very difficult to access once in bed mode. On this flight my drawer lay fallow and unused.

The touch screen IFE system is very crisp and responsive and BA has one of the better selections of entertainment of any airline (up there with AA, CX and EY)

Here’s the thing: people always tout seat consistency as one of the key benefits of BA:

‘Sure I may not get direct aisle access but I’ll always get a flat bed and never end up in a reclining chair instead.’

Fair enough, I agree in principle. Nobody wants to pay for business class and end up in a recliner (although AA will accommodate you on an alternate carrier if you get a last minute aircraft swap – as I once discovered ‘INVOL EQUIP CHG’). However, I would argue that the 777 and A380 Upper Deck products are remarkably different. The A380 cabin is subdivided into various smaller cabins and seats less people across than the 777, this gives a far more premium feel and eliminates the feeling of being in a giant dormitory. The A380 IFE system is also better, the windows are bigger, there’s more storage, the air quality is better, the lighting is better and as I would later find out, even the tableware is better!

After reading countless reviews online I never thought I would say this but my initial impressions of the BA A380 cabin actually put it ahead of my recent experience flying on JAL’s 777 business class. Sure, I didn’t have direct aisle access but I was getting just as much storage (if not more) and all of the finishes in the cabin are markedly superior on BA. The black, silver and grey colour scheme is really clean and modern, moreover the purple and blue lighting adds markedly to the effect.

After our eerily quiet take-off the cabin crew kicked into gear and came around offering drinks and bags of mixed nuts.

Pre-departure beverage: Castelnau 2004 champagne

I went with a glass of the Castelnau 2004 champagne, a lovely drop with a notable Pinot Noir dryness. The FA made a point of saying here is your ‘vintage champagne’ when handing it over. The The nuts were served cold, in the packet. In this regard BA falls behind the likes of AA and QR who serve more copious quantities of warm cashews and almonds, in ceramic bowls.

Conversely, I have always been impressed with hoe good BA are at keeping your glass topped up. Within seconds of reaching the halfway mark on my glass, the FA was leaning over the divider offering me more champagne. I’m not sure what it says about British culture in general but my home airline never lets you go thirsty 🙂

At this stage I was thinking that I had perhaps been a little mean to BA in the past, certainly a good BA crew always makes me feel at home. The conversation flows very easily and things just feel comfortable.

Looking through the menu it seemed like I wasn’t going to be disappointed here either:

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For the starter I went with the scallops. Two enormous and delectable beasts, atop a deliciously creamy cauliflower puree, garnished with Oscietra caviar! People berate certain airlines for not having caviar in F and here I was getting caviar in J 😮

Okay, not a lot of caviar but still…

The side salas was large but totally uninteresting. It would have been nice to have some more peppers or sun dried tomatoes in here.

Kamara went with the Salmon main course which she liked a lot, despite the fish being a little dry.

At this stage in the flight, things went a bit wrong. I waited for my main course for twenty minutes. I tried a bit of Kamara’s salmon in the meantime which kept me somewhat entertained. Twenty minutes later, still nothing. The cabin crew were wandering around clearing plates and bringing people deserts. I tried pressing the call button but got nowhere. It was just ignored. With the table down, I was kind of trapped, not to mention the fact that I was blocked from the aisle by another passenger’s foot rest.

Finally I was able to wave to one of the FA’s whilst her arms weren’t full of trays. I asked her if everything was ok with my main course. The cabin manager heard this and apologised profusely, saying that my main would be right out.

It was brought to me by the junior FA, with the following words: “Sorry about that, we were busy chatting”.

Just like that, all the hard work of her colleagues, the impressive cabin finishes and the great IFE selection were forgotten. This is the one thing that I remember the most from this flight. Being trapped and hungry and being told that chatting to colleagues was more important than looking after a paying customer. Unreal. Once you’ve flown the likes of Singapore, ANA and JAL, you’ve seen the apex of service, the pinnacle of what can be achieved. Those words would never have been uttered by an employee of one of those airlines. Never.

Once I saw the food I was actually a little taken aback. The presentation was fantastic. Not only did the black plate look like something you’d get in a decent London restaurant, the steak had a beautiful maillard crust on the outside and the broccoli appeared to be very well cooked.

Unfortunately, whilst the broccoli had a satisfying crunch to it, offsetting the creaminess of the truffle and artichoke risotto – the steak was a hockey puck. Totally overcooked. You could have used this thing as a shock absorber on the front of a train.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and always prefer cheese to dessert. However BA always tends to go for bland and milky cheeses. Where is my festering lump of blue delight? Nowhere, that’s where.

I didn’t have any coffee after the meal because BA don’t offer espresso based coffee to business class passengers. The £0.10 Nespresso capsules are reserved for people in First class. So much for Business Class being a ‘premium’ cabin.

Full from the meal, I decided to get some rest. The pillow on this flight seemed a little thicker than the one on the 777 but the blanket was the same scratchy, thin and flimsy thing that I remembered.

On the upside: my window seat was very private, giving me a peaceful cocooned felling for sleep.

Bed time.

After a solid 6 hours of sleep I headed over to the galley to investigate the Club Kitchen.

Not much in the way of healthy snacks, other than the fruit. It would be nice to have some cashew nuts or jerky. Still, it is nice to have a large selection of drinks available at all times.

I sat and watched a movie for an hour or so, at which point I smelled the smell of breakfast being heated up. An odour which permeates an airplane cabin and usually brings with it a slight sense of sadness, as it almost invariably marks the closing stanza of an intercontinental flight.

I went with the Traditional English. One day I’ll get black pudding on a plane… one day.

As you can see from the water glass, there was a fair bit of turbulence during the breakfast service but the staff coped very well. I loved the fruit, it was varied and tasted very fresh. The ‘coffee’ was horrendous though. Much like ordering beef on BA, when you order their insipid brown dishwater, part of you hopes that something will have changed, things will have improved… they hadn’t. For a traveller on business, coffee is a necessity not a luxury. Withholding the good stuff in order to differentiate between cabins is a shitty thing to do, especially when it is such a low cost item to provide.

The omelette and the sausage were decent but the hash browns were completely soggy. The bacon had a fatty rind on it which was as wide as my thumb.

The breakfast may have been underwhelming but how can you remain annoyed when you have these magnificent Rolls Royce engines to gaze upon?

I absolutely love seeing all the ships during the approach to Singapore. 10 miles out to sea, the energy of The Merlion City is palpable. Captivating.

 


Conclusion


The upper deck window seats on the BA A380 solve most pressing concern that I had with the 777 Club World experience: lack of storage space.

There are plenty of other advantages to the A380, irrespective of your choice of seat:

  • Lack of privacy due to being one enormous, undivided cabin is avoided. Club World on the A380 is broken into a series of smaller, more intimate spaces.
  • Air quality is better. You feel less eye, mouth and nose dryness and you feel less jetlagged.
  • IFE is guaranteed to be the newest HD Thales system

However, the beef is still inedible; the coffee is still undrinkable; aisle seats still have no privacy at all and the crew are still capable of being extremely unprofessional.

For the price I paid for this ticket, I certainly got value for money. honestly I feel like the price is about right for what you get. The thing is that BA, until recently, used to charge double this price (or more). Having luxuriated in the sheer opulence of the Singapore Airlines cabin on this route, I would gladly pay £2k+ to fly to Singapore with them. The memory of each flight with SQ is a delight that lasts a lifetime.

Would I pay £2k to fly BA? No chance.