Flight report – British Airways business class (Club World) 787-9 Dreamliner
Flight: BA33 / BA34 London Heathrow
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Seat: 7E (for both journeys)
What lounges are available to British Airways business passengers in Heathrow Terminal 5?
You would typically have access to any One World business lounge with a British Airways Club World ticket, but because T5 is the BA Heathrow hub, your choice is BA or BA…or BA. There are a number of lounges to account for the size and layout of the terminal which includes a number of satellite gates.
On my flight out of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 I was at a satellite gate and used the British Airways lounge there. I didn’t go into the main T5 lounge as I thought it would be better to head straight to the gate after some shopping rather than have the rush of getting the train to the gate for boarding.
This was a mistake; the satellite lounge is really not great. I’m not even really going to review it because it was so bad – just don’t go there. My major observations: the food was basically inedible, I just had Kettle Crisps because everything looked like it had been sitting around for a while. I did venture to try some pasta which just tasted like pasted covered in miscellaneous grease of some sort.
Added to this there was no champagne or prosecco to be had…on New Year’s Day!! The lounge was generally just a mess and felt pretty dirty. Glasses and plates were left out everywhere, there didn’t seem to be any urgency from staff to clear these up. The furniture was pretty tired looking and the toilets looked like what you might expect in a hospital. Not how I wanted to spend my New Years Day or the intro to a 13 hour flight!
Coming back was a totally different story as I got to visit the new Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge in KLIA. This lounge is huge and well appointed with a number of different seating and food options.
There’s food court style seating and bar tables and stools arranged need the buffet and noodle bar areas (curry laksa was amazing) and then comfier chairs arranged along the windows where you can watch the planes go to and fro. All the lounge type seating comes with charge points for electricals.
The toilets are nice and spacious and there are showers available, although they do use a slightly bizarre queueing system where you hand over your boarding card and they give you your shower pack and a number (in case I steal a shower before my flight?!).
I was disappointed by the showers as, despite the newness of the lounge, the one I used was already falling apart with the head falling off the hand held shower head so I had to use the overhead one to stop water spurting out everywhere and soaking my clothes. The shower was also blocked so barely a minute into what was only ever going to be a very quick shower, the water in the tray had already pooled over my ankles and was in danger of overflowing into the room.
The food was great. There’s a pretty big buffet selection of fruit, desserts and hot food. There’s also a noodle place with a few made to order noodle dishes. I had the curry laksa and it was really tasty.
My schedule LHR to KUL return
Model: Boeing 787-9 (Dreamliner)
Flight time 11:51
Flight time: 13:20
Boarding and pre-flight
Boarding with British Airways is always very orderly and fair with everyone sticking to their assigned groups (but it’s a British outfit so I guess queuing is hardwired). In T5 we were all lined up according to group and then boarded in order of Groups 1 – 5. It was a bit less formal in KUL due to the lack of space at the gate but I still got on almost as soon as I arrived at the gate once the First and other Group 1 passengers had boarded.
On both flights I was disappointed by pre-flight. Pillows and bedding are already on your seat when you board so you need to move at least the bedding to the overhead bin.
The attendants bring round a bottle of water and your amenity kit and your menus for the flight, including the breakfast card to fill in to tell them when to wake you and what drinks to bring with your breakfast.
On my flight out I was relieved to finally get some New Year’s Day bubbles before take off but that’s all you get, no nuts are anything to accompany your drink. On my flight back I wasn’t even that lucky, they didn’t appear to have any kind of pre-flight drinks service, which was very disappointing (especially as the Malaysia lounge is dry unless you visit the separate bar area). I’m not sure there’s any good excuse for not providing a pre-flight drink in business class.
I really love the Dreamliner, it’s not massive so boarding isn’t a complete performance like it is on an A380 and it is SO QUIET. I find it particularly easy to sleep on because it’s quiet and I am sure I do notice the difference in the cabin pressure which is set to 6,000 feet compared to typically 8,000 feet on other passenger jets. You don’t seem to experience the same discomfort from the ascent and descent. Although it does mean I can’t quite figure out when we’re landing if I’m in the middle so it usually comes as a bit of a shock when you hit the runway.
What’s the layout of the British Airways B787 business class cabin?
I don’t write reams on the configuration of the whole aircraft, Seat Guru already have that covered, but at a high level the British Airways Boeing 787-9 is configured as follows:
First class: 8 seats
Club World: 42 seats (split into two cabins by a galley, with 14 in the fore cabin and 28 in rear)
World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy): 39 seats
World Traveller (Economy): 127 seats
The 787-8 is configured differently and has no First Class.
Where should I sit in British Airways business class 787-9?
If you’re new to business class or air travel blog posts in general then you might not know that British Airways’ business class configuration is the subject of much derision. It’s not alone by any means, but it’s particularly annoying on the LHR – KUL route because only BA and Malaysia fly this route direct so you don’t get a lot of choice unless you want to layover in the Middle East although this leaves you with two 7 hour legs which isn’t optimal for sleeping.
Rarely are business class seats created equal but the degree to which they vary depends heavily on the configuration.
BA has a 2 – 3 – 2 configuration which makes the cabin pretty dense if you compare it to a similar sized aircraft like Malaysia’s A350 which uses 1 – 2 – 1 or even to much larger aircraft like Emirates 1 – 2 – 1 configuration on its A380 business class. It’s set up so that every other seat is backwards facing. Flying backwards doesn’t bother me but I know some people don’t like it. For many, that’s going to make British Airways a particularly unpopular option.
In terms of choosing a seat this will be influenced by personal preference and who you’re travelling with. I was alone so I was looking for maximum privacy and aisle access. This is not easily achieved in the BA configuration. Due to the density of the cabin, the seats are very narrow and so if you’re in an aisle seat you are really in the aisle, with little protecting you from staff and passengers walking by.
You can minimise the disruption from this by the location you choose in the cabin. Because business class is split into a smaller and a larger cabin, you can minimise some of the foot flow by choosing to sit as far forward in the front, smaller cabin as possible. The back of the rear cabin is also likely to have decreased foot flow as the toilets and galley for business class are located between the two cabins, whereas the back of business class leads treat into premium economy. The noisier rows are therefore row 7 in the small cabin and row 10 in the larger cabin.
However, there’s a trade-off to be had because some of the best seats in the house are also in row 7 with the rear-facing window seats 7A and 7K offering unrestricted aisle access, a view and privacy from the aisle. Potentially quieter versions of these jackpot seats can be round at 13A and 13K. Additionally if you want privacy but aren’t bothered by the window (this particular flight is a night flight anyway) then 7E and 13E offer unrestricted aisle access but 7E can be noisy near the toilets and galley. I also had 1 or 2 people use my seat’s foot space as a rat run to the toilets rather than going through the galley…it was fairly hard to bite my tongue but I couldn’t be bothered to get into an argument.
All the window seats are rear-facing but have the bonus of being private from the aisle, especially once the divide between the seats comes off after take off. The aisle seats also suffer from the cabin crew having to lean over the divider to service the window seat (of the middle seat). Nearly all window seats, except those mentioned above have no aisle access, with you having to step over the aisle passenger’s feet in order to get out. This is the same situation with the middle seat. If you’re traveling in a pair then the obstructed window seat and aisle combo may not be as bad, but someone still has to sit in the exposed aisle seat so you’ll have to fight it out for the window.
All things consider I’d rather cut down the chance I have to disturb someone or they have to disturb me for picking one of the few private seats with unrestricted aisle access: 7A, 7K, 7E, 13A, 13K or 13E.
You can see all of these details and the layout of the cabin on Seat Guru (hovering over the seats gives you the additional information about whether there is direct aisle access or you won’t be climbed over by your neighbour).
The poor layout of BA’s business class is additionally problematic because they won’t let you choose your seat (without an additional fee, which started at £68 when I booked) unless you have status. Bronze executive club members can book one week before the flight and gold and silvers from the time of booking. This means if you can’t handle flying backwards and don’t have status then you may have to stump up the additional fee to choose a seat, or fly with someone else.
Seat feel and functions
I was pretty impressed with the seat. I found it really comfortable to sit and to sleep in and the White Company seat cover and blankets they provide are super soft and comfortable. There’s also a big comfy pillow on the seat; all in all it resulted in a pretty good night’s sleep. Many people complain about the seats being narrow, but I didn’t really notice that, mine felt quite roomy.
The middle seats perhaps feel wider than the other seats (although I couldn’t verify this was actually the case) since it’s enclosed on both sides to it allows you to store your things for easy access down the side of the seat by the arms (just be careful you don’t trap them under the arm when reclining the seat).
What is nice about the BA set up (once you get over the terrible configuration) is that the footrest for the lie flat seat is a just that, a footrest that flips down which means your feet are completely free to move about. Some airline lie flat seats have a little cubby-hole area for your feet that can be quite restrictive (I certainly found this the case on Malaysia; Emirates was small but not quite so restrictive), especially when trying to turn over. I think this contributed to the good night’s sleep I had in Club World.
As with most airline flat beds the seat will recline to certain pre-sets and to your own specifications. I found it pretty comfortable in all positions.
Other seat features
The seat has a stand hand held control for entertainment, or you can use the touch screen (if you can reach it). There’s also a dimmable and adjustable reading light, a USB port by your arm and a universal socket and second USB port by the drawer.
One really nice feature is the range that the table will slide when it’s down. You can push it right out of your way when you’re sitting and even get out of the seat with it down when it’s pushed all the way back. I wish this was the case with more seats as meal service can take some time and it’s nice to be able to get up if you need to.
How much storage space is there in British Airways business class seats?
The simple answer is: basically none. There’s a narrow drawer by your feet that slides out (not exactly east access) which will take a laptop, a very small handbag or some personal effects, that’s about it. There’s also a small area to put your bottle of water. Under the seat to one side my seat also had a little cupboard which also wouldn’t take much more than an evening bag (and probably not a laptop). It was enough to store a few bits for take off but you’d need to put anything large in the overhead bin (there’s loads of space there). I’m not sure if each seat has one or if that was unique to the middle seat.
But both storage options are underneath you so they’re not very accessible if you can’t double yourself over to reach the floor. It’s also pretty hard to reach the drawer if you’re sitting in your seat with the seatbelt on.
I particularly liked seat 7E because it had direct aisle access to both sides so during the flight I could leave my larger bag on one side and still get out of my seat without stepping over it or putting the footrest up. It actually resulted in rather a large seating area.
After boarding, the cabin crew brought round the amenity kit and a bottle of water. The kit is a rather smart black White Company bag containing lip balm, moisturiser, a comb, relaxing pulse point stuff, socks and an eye mask.
For me, that’s more or less everything I need. I prefer to have a pair of slippers to wear around the cabin (no way am I trusting those flimsy socks on an airplane toilet floor), but they seem to be the preserve of Asian carriers.
I’ve never been worried about being bored on a plane because there’s always such a huge selection of films and usually loads I’ve never seen or have been meaning to see. Not so on British Airways I’m sorry to say. When I flew Emirates back in October there was basically too much choice, but it was a great range with loads of new releases. I genuinely struggled to find much that I wanted to watch on BA and basically resorted to watching some of my old favourites (War Dogs, The Big Short), but I didn’t see anything of particularly interest or anything I’d been waiting to see which was disappointing. Luckily on a direct flight I spent most of the time sleeping but I really think BA needs to up its game in this area.
On top of this I find the set up with the screen a bit annoying because you have to stow it every time you get out of your seat and it has to be stowed on take off and landing, so you can listen to something while you take off and land, but you have to lean around to see the screen so you can’t really watch it.
Oddly I also found the headphones unbelievably uncomfortable so I wouldn’t have been able to watch films the whole journey even if there was something to watch. I haven’t had this problem before with airline headphones and I couldn’t really tell what the issue was, but it was the same on both journeys so I have to conclude that they just weren’t very comfortable.
Because of stowing the screen you can’t watch the screen for the first and last 20 mins of the flight. Despite reading elsewhere that the screen tilts, I couldn’t work out how to do it. This meant it was difficult to see it when lying down. I assume this is just me being stupid because I find it hard to believe you wouldn’t be able to adjust it.
Food and drinks
What food will I be served on British Airways business class?
Once again I just don’t think BA is competitive on this point. The selection is fairly limited and I didn’t find the taste to be particularly good.
My starter of smoked salmon on the way out was pretty good and the same for the salmon tartare starter I had on the way back. But it doesn’t say much about an airline that the best food they offered you was cold stuff they can get out of a packet / prep and keep cool.
The food just isn’t great on British Airways, there’s no two ways about it. I was halfway through writing about the fact that it didn’t compare particularly favourably to what Air Asia are able to offer up in tinfoil boxes, but then my dinner came and it actually wasn’t bad. I’d still put British Airways at the bottom of the pile food wise (in descending order of the business products I’ve tried so far I’d rank them Etihad, Malaysia, Emirates, British Airways).
I found the main courses particularly underwhelming, particularly my chicken stir fry on my outbound leg. On the way back I had a half decent chicken satay with fried rice.
Breakfast wasn’t great, but then it’s not exactly easy to serve a decent fry up on a plane. If I was BA I’d probably look into stocking some local fare- a nasi lemak would have travelled better and hit the spot. Manky eggs at 4am are not the one.
Can I dine on demand on British Airways?
All of the nope. Just some Kettle Chips and fruit to keep you company in the night. So make sure you eat when you’re offered food.
What drinks are available on British Airways Business Class?
There’s a decent selection of drinks which you can see in the menus below. As I’ve already said my major bugbear is the inconsistency in delivering pre-flight drinks.
They weren’t very proactive in offering drinks during the flight either, I’m not sure anyone offered me a drink the whole flight except with my meal. That’s in pretty stark contrast to Emirates where I almost got fed up of being passed hot towels and asked if I wanted another drink.
What does the flight cost?
On this route the tickets can be extortionate because there’s so little choice for a direct flight London to Kuala Lumpur. Typically the costs seems to vary between £3,000 and £4,000. For me that’s too much, especially because British Airways isn’t really a premium product. I bought my ticket in the BA sale and it was around £2200 which I further reduced by redeeming some Avios to keep it around the £2000 mark.
To fly this route, do everything you can to get on a Malaysia Airlines flight at a reasonable cost for a better cabin layout, service and food. I liked the BA seat but the layout and food is a major problem and sadly the service wasn’t great either, even though I usually rate BA service.