Upgraded – from Premium Economy to Business Class (Club World).

The BA66 flight from Philadelphia to London Heathrow has a scheduled departure of 9:10 pm with a total flight time of 7 hours.

Check In
As far as check-in goes, this was a connecting flight from Atlanta, Georgia, so I didn’t check-in specifically for this flight at landside.

Boarding
Prior to boarding, I was resting comfortably in the British Airways Galleries Lounge. The flight’s gate was at Gate A16 and the lounge was opposite Gate A14. Convenient location indeed. With ten minutes to boarding, the BA lounge front desk made an announcement that boarding will commence shortly. This gave me enough time to pack up my belongings, use the washroom, sneakily grabbed a packet of crisps and head off to the gate.

When I reached the gate at 8:20 pm, there were already four separate queues formed. One for Group 1, another for Group 2, another for Group 3 and lastly, one for Group 4 and 5. (N.B. The breakdown of BA’s priority groups can be found here.) About five to ten minutes later, boarding commenced. There was an error scanning my boarding pass, so I was pulled aside to another desk – three other passengers also experienced the same.

After five minutes of waiting, the BA staff at the desk apologised for the wait and informed me that I had been upgraded from Premium Economy to Business Class. (The word ‘upgraded’ is music to my ears at an airport.) The combination of the flight being full and my BA Silver status most likely afforded me this upgrade.

After boarding was complete, the airplane pulled out of the gate four minutes ahead of schedule (9:06 pm). There was a 23 minute taxi before take-off.

The Aircraft, Cabin and Seating
The aircraft was a Boeing 747-400 quad-jet (B744). BA actually has three different variations of this aircraft. The variations between these aircrafts are the layout, total number seats and allocation of seats to each class (Economy, Premium Economy, Business Class, First Class).

British Airways Business Class Seat Map and Layout
British Airways Business Class Seat Map and Layout – BA66

I was seated in 17D – an aisle seat facing forward at the very front of the cabin. This meant I was attended to first, and getting my meals before others – a great place to be in my opinion, although it also meant being close to the lavatory.

British Airways Business Class - Aisle and Seat View from 17D
British Airways Business Class – Aisle and Seat View from 17D

The layout of the business class seats in this cabin was 2-4-2. Not sure why a business class cabin would be 2-4-2 as it makes the seats significantly narrower compared to other business classes in other airlines (but British Airways has a policy of squeezing as many seats as possible in every cabin). Every seat alternated (backwards and forwards) except for the two middle seats in the middle section.

As the seats alternate front facing and back facing, I was facing opposite to a total stranger. There was a lack in privacy and it was a little bit awkward. Thankfully, it was only temporary – after the safety video ended, the cabin crew promptly raised the barrier between the seats.

British Airways Business Class - Frontward and Backward Facing Seats
British Airways Business Class – Frontward and Backward Facing Seats

The seat itself was a ‘lie-flat’. I had the options to adjust the recline of the seat, adjust and raise the footrest, inflate back support, inflate head support and, of course, totally lie-flat. In order to make the most of the lie-flat functionality, I had to lower a separate footrest located directly in front of the seat – this acted like an extension to the seat.

British Airways Business Class - Seat Options
British Airways Business Class – Seat Options

There was a USB outlet and a multi-adapter power supply to directly charge electrical devices. The screen was smaller than your typical business class screen size (about the size of an iPad). It also could not be viewed during take-off and landing as it had to be stowed away. I was not particularly happy with that.

Another downside of the layout was that there was absolutely no storage space in the actual vicinity of the seat (ignoring the overhead lockers). The only pocket available was occupied with BA magazines and aircraft safety cards. So I had to put everything (my personal belongings and the provided duvet set and headphones) up in the overhead locker which was not very convenient.

In Flight Services
Every seat in business class had a duvet case, noise cancelling headphones and a pillow on the seat. The duvet case (rather large, occupying quite bit of space) actually contained a soft duvet, a woven blanket and a padded mattress cover. These were all made by The White Company London. The large and soft pillow was pleasantly comfy.

British Airways Business Class - Seat 17D
British Airways Business Class – Seat 17D

After I made space on my seat to sit, the cabin crew came by and handed out a bottle of water (500ml) and an amenity kit. The latter was a small leather-like bag from the White Company London. It contained a pen, a toothbrush with toothpaste, earplugs, socks, a sleeping mask and other products from the White Company’s ‘Restore and Relax Spa’ collection (lip balm, pulse point and moisturiser). Due to the non-existent storage space, they (including the duvet set) all had to be stored in the overhead locker.

British Airways Business Class - The White Company Amenity Kit
British Airways Business Class – The White Company Amenity Kit

British Airways Business Class - The White Company London Exclusively for BA
British Airways Business Class – The White Company London Exclusively for BA

British Airways Business Class - The White Company Amenity Spa Kit
British Airways Business Class – The White Company Amenity Spa Kit

The cabin crew then offered champagne and handed out a breakfast card and dinner menu. The breakfast card was a nice touch. It gave a choice of three breakfast options which were:

  • Hot breakfast with a beverage. 1 hour 15 minutes prior to landing.
  • Hot or cold beverage. 50 minutes prior to landing.
  • Self-serve beverages at the Club Kitchen. 40 minutes prior to landing.

I opted for the last option as I was fairly fatigued and wanted to maximise on my sleep.

British Airways Business Class - Breakfast Card and Dinner Menu
British Airways Business Class – Breakfast Card and Dinner Menu

British Airways Business Class - Dinner Menu
British Airways Business Class – Dinner Menu

Shortly after take-off, the cabin crew collected the breakfast cards and took our dinner and drink requests. I decided not to have a starter or dessert, but selected the Risotto Primavera as my main. It took about 15 minutes for dinner to be served. This was served with warm bread and a little salad. The meal was only marginally satisfactory – nothing to shout about.

British Airways Business Class - Risotto Primavera Dinner Meal
British Airways Business Class – Risotto Primavera Dinner Meal

As for my sleep during this flight, it was not the best. There was a bit of tossing and turning – the seat was a bit narrow to fully enjoy it. In addition, the noise of the cabin crew serving breakfast to other passengers prevented me from having a nice uninterrupted sleep. I was given a peach, vanilla smoothie before landing which was delightfully refreshing.

The inflight entertainment consisted of usual choice of movies, TV series and audio. The movie selection was pretty decent. I counted five movies (all released in 2018) that I would have watched if it wasn’t for my sleepiness.

The plane landed thirty minutes ahead of schedule (at 8:40 AM instead of 9:10 AM). It was then a 14 minute taxi to the gate. So, gate to gate, the total travel time was 6 hours 48 minutes.

Summary
Overall, it was a pretty average business class experience with average service, average food and average seat. There was no wow factor. Getting upgraded was an absolute delight, however I would not pay for a full-fare business class ticket with BA. As is now, it is lagging way behind its competitors in terms of layout, comfort and features in its premier cabins. BA is rolling out new business class seats as from July 2019 but only on the new Airbus A350 aircrafts. It may never even reach the Boeing 747 fleet at the rate BA is doing things. Personally, I would avoid BA, largely due to the lack of direct aisle access and privacy, and the not so generous space. American Airlines’ trans-Atlantic Boeing 777’s are much more superior in most respects.

Airline Review: BA66 British Airways Boeing 747-400 Philadelphia to London Heathrow Business Class
Date Flew: 01-MAR-2019

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