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Flight Review: British Airways Business Class Boeing 747-400 – Philadelphia to London Heathrow

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

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

Hotel Review: Hilton London Hyde Park

Bedroom Decor in Hilton London Hyde Park
Bedroom Decor in Hilton London Hyde Park

Lobby & Check-In
I arrived London eagerly to spend my weekend indulging in good food and watching sports (an early Premier League match in Wembley, and then the Six Nations’ rugby match). I decided to try out Hilton London Hyde Park hotel as my base – normally my choice would be the nearby DoubleTree Hyde Park.

Upon entering the hotel lobby (which wasn’t so obvious to locate), I was warmly greeted by the reception staff. The staff member who checked me in was friendly and pleasant to deal with. The single room which I had originally booked was upgraded to a queen room, thanks to my Hilton Honors Gold status. The lobby area was small, but nicely decorated. There were two stand-up check-in counters and a small sitting area, enough for four lounge chairs. As space is a premium in central London, it is not fair to make comparisons with the majestic lobbies in various Hiltons located around Asia.

Lobby at Hilton London Hyde Park
Small lobby in Hilton London Hyde Park
View of Lobby from 1st Floor
View of Lobby from 1st Floor in Hilton London Hyde Park

Bedroom & Bathroom
My room was on the third floor and access was through a small elevator located next to the check-in desks. As another option, you can also climb three flights of stairs (surprisingly quite wide). As I entered the room, I was hit by a strong scent of flora which I could tell had only been recently sprayed. It was a nice touch. The room overlooked the beautiful and well-known landmark of London – the iconic Hyde Park.

Overall, the room was relatively spacious for a central London location. On either side of the bed, there was a bedside table, equipped with an alarm clock, power outlets and USB charge slots (handy for charging your mobile if you forget an adapter). Directly opposite the bed was the mounted television and under that, a desk/workstation. Again, there were power outlets and USB charge slots. The room also had the standard amenities such as fridge, safe, coffee/tea and kettle. There was a thermostat in the room for adjusting the temperature as well.

Queen Bed in Hilton London Hyde Park
Queen Bed in Hilton London Hyde Park
TV / Workstation in Bedroom of Hilton London Hyde Park
TV / Workstation in Bedroom in Hilton London Hyde Park

The bathroom was a little bit small – you couldn’t shower with the bathroom door open. Again, it contained basic amenities such as body wash, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and a shower cap. The skin care products were all branded as Crabtree and Evelyn. The shower itself was equipped with a fixed rain shower and a handheld shower unit, both of  which had good water pressure.

Bathroom in Hilton London Hyde Park
Bathroom in Hilton London Hyde Park

Now, for my night’s sleep. As I’ve said before, beds are personal taste, but for me, the bed was perfect and comfortable in all aspects – the mattress, duvet and pillows. No complaints from me. I slept, for the most part, like a log. The only downside was that the external walls and windows were not soundproof which meant I was awakened twice due to the sirens from ambulance/police vehicles. Luckily, I was able to fall back asleep almost instantly. So, for the light sleepers out there, you may want to ask for a room which is not facing Hyde Park or away from Bayswater Road.

In the morning, I noticed an almost sewage-like smell – not too strong, but noticeable. And it was then I realised why they had sprayed the room with a scent – to mask the unpleasant smell. I wasn’t too bothered because I was checking out later that morning. The hotel also provided a complimentary ‘Sunday Times’ newspaper at the doorstep – another perk of holding a Gold status. There were also two bottles of water in the fridge, again complimentary to Gold members.

Breakfast
The breakfast room portrayed an old Victorian-type design. The lighting was too dim for my liking and there was also no natural lighting. As for the food, the breakfast was the standard buffet style. The hot food spread included sausages, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms, hash browns and fried and boiled eggs. There were also a variety of cereals, fruits, breads and pastries. As for beverages, there was a selection of juices and a self-help coffee machine (latte, cappuccino, Americano, flat white). I was craving a hot chocolate, so I asked one of the staff if they’d make one – and they did.

Breakfast at Hilton London Hyde Park
Breakfast at Hilton London Hyde Park

Hot Chocolate at Breakfast
Hot Chocolate at Hilton London Hyde Park

Hot Food Buffet at Hilton London Hyde Park
Hot Breakfast Buffet at Hilton London Hyde Park

Location
As for location, it is prime. Hyde Park is right at your doorstep – literally. Exit the lobby, cross the road and you’re in Hyde Park. Ideal for a run (my choice), or if you prefer, a stroll in the park. The hotel is actually attached to the same building block as Queensway tube station (Central line) and a less than five minute walk to Bayswater tube station (District and Circle lines). There is also an endless choice of restaurants in the area – some great Chinese, Greek and Indian restaurants are in the vicinity. It is also very near to Paddington station for the Heathrow Express (just one stop from Bayswater tube station).

Summary
Would I stay in this hotel again? Absolutely. The hotel was clean and my room was a decent size (despite the fact you’re in central London). The location and friendly staff are other reasons why I’d come back to stay at Hilton London Hyde Park.

Hotel Review: DoubleTree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport

Rear entrance
Rear entrance of the Double Tree by Hilton London Heathrow

Location
Doubletree by Hilton London Heathrow is not located in any of the five Heathrow airport’s terminals. It is located on Bath Road, about 5 km to Terminal 1/2/3, 7 km to Terminal 4, and 10 km to Terminal 5. You can reach the hotel from the airport with Hoppa Bus, black cab, private taxi (£16 one way) or self-drive (£12.50 per day parking charge). There is nothing much to do or see within its immediate vicinity.

Lobby & Check-In
I arrived at this DoubleTree at 11 am on a Saturday morning. There were three check-in counters – two of which were manned. Check-in was smooth and quick, and I was on my way to my room in no time (whilst munching on that classic DoubleTree cookie – let’s not forget the Cookie!). The elevators to the guest floors were located just around the corner to the right of the check-in desks. Also located here was a computer, an ATM and a vending machine (the former was out-of-service).

The lobby area was relatively small. The seating area was by the entry hallway leading to the car park. There was a sky roof which allowed ample natural light to come through into the lobby areas. Opposite the lobby, there was a bar/lounge area with multiple tables and chairs. The décor here was modern and aesthetically pleasant.

Doubletree London Heathrow – Hallway leading to check-in desks; sky roof brightens the lobby area.

Bedroom
I was given a Hilton Honors room on the fourth floor. My room was a twin room with two single beds. It was not very spacious but adequate. Only one bed had a wall plug beside it. So for the other person in the other bed, there was no option to charge a phone during the night – unless you have an ultra long cable with you (thankfully, I did).

Twin-bed room
Doubletree London Heathrow – Twin-bed room

The room was equipped with a safe, iron and ironing board, kettle and tea and coffee. There was also a work desk located beside the window.

Work desk in twin room
Doubletree London Heathrow – Work desk

I must admit, I do have a couple of negatives. I did not have a great sleep for either of the nights I stayed at this DoubleTree hotel. The mattress was hard and the pillows were far too soft. If you placed your head in the centre of the pillow, your head would sink completely and the sides of the pillow would go around your head – no support whatsoever. I resorted to folding the pillow in half.

The thermostat in the room did not seem to work if you wanted to warm the room, but was fine for cooling the room.

Bathroom
The bathroom was smallish, equipped with bathtub shower. The shower pressure was not that great but not excessively bad either. The mirror was large and heated, giving you a steam-free view. Basic amenities (shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion) were provided.

Sink and amenities
Doubletree London Heathrow – Bathroom and amenities
Bathtub shower
Doubletree London Heathrow – Bathroom

Miscellaneous
DoubleTree Heathrow has no executive lounge. Breakfast was at the ground floor restaurant, adjacent to the reception area. Breakfast consisted of a decent hot buffet spread of eggs, sausages, bacon, tomato, hash browns, fried toast and mushrooms. The standard pastries, cereals and fruit selection were also available. A nice touch was their catering for people with a gluten-free diet.

Breakfast seating
Doubletree London Heathrow – Restaurant
Doubletree London Heathrow – Hot breakfast buffet
Gluten-free breakfast
Doubletree London Heathrow – Gluten-free breakfast selection

Also available at this DoubleTree hotel was a fitness centre and a bar area (which I did not use).

Bar/lounge seating area
Doubletree London Heathrow – Bar and lounge seating area, adjacent to lobby

There was a ‘hotel-approved’ car service to and from Heathrow Airport, Windsor and Central London. The charge for a car (1-3 passengers) to Heathrow was GBP 16 one way.

Summary
My experience at DoubleTree by Hilton Heathrow fell short of my other experiences with this hotel brand. Having just stayed at the DoubleTree in Edinburgh a few nights prior and several DoubleTrees in Asia, the hotel seemed to be of a lower standard in terms of the room comfort.

Tip 1
The reason why we reviewed DoubleTree Heathrow was because it is a solid alternative to the other hotels available by the Heathrow area. If you want a branded name, near the airport that is budget friendly, DoubleTree Heathrow is a solid choice. Often you can get this hotel for £50-£70 per night. The other hotels nearer to Heathrow’s terminals can range from £120 to £250 per night, especially on weekdays. But remember, it is not an easy train hop to the hotel from the airport. You must take into account the transportation charges to and from the hotel which might defeat the objective of saving some money.

Tip 2
If you are constrained by budget, you should consider Premier Inn London Heathrow Terminal 4 for overnight stays. It is linked to Terminal 4 and can be reached by foot about 7-8 minutes via a covered walkway. It is new and clean, and very budget friendly, most often available around £29 to £50 range. The more advance you booked, the cheaper it is. Transport from here (bus, tube and Heathrow Express) to any of the terminals is free. Read our review on Premier Inn London Heathrow Terminal 4.

Hotel Review: Double Tree Edinburgh City Centre by Hilton

DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre

Location
Double Tree Edinburgh City Centre by Hilton is an A-listed building but equipped with all the modern amenities. The location is right by Edinburgh Castle and only a ten minute walk from the main shopping area of Princes Street. Both Waverly and Haymarket train stations are within walking distance. Edinburgh Airport is about thirty minutes away.

Lobby & Check-In
I arrived at the Double Tree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre hotel at 5:40PM and there were two people working at the front (check-in) desk. One of them was available, and I was attended to immediately. Lucky indeed, because immediately after, six more guests arrived into the lobby. The check-in was quick enough as everything was prepaid – all that was required was a signature, the issuing of the room card, and of course, the Cookie. This was a quick five minute job, if even.

Every Double Tree by Hilton hotel gives each guest their signature Cookie. And a fine cookie it is! Warm, soft, gooey and chocolatey.

The famed DoubleTree chocolate cookie
The famed DoubleTree chocolate cookie

The lobby was moderately-sized and reasonably modern. It consisted of the main check-in desks, a number of ‘loungy’ chairs and two public computers for general browsing. What’s odd was that the lobby did not have any washrooms – just the one toilet labelled for the disabled and to get to this, you would have to pass through two doors.

Bedroom
There were two elevators to reach the guest room floors. I walked up the stairs as my room was on the first floor.

DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre First Floor
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre – First Floor

My room was relatively standard with the basic amenities (a safe, tea, coffee and kettle). It had one window from ceiling to floor but only two feet in width which did not allow for much natural light. Placed near the window was the desk with four wall plugs.

DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre Bedroom
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre – Bedroom
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre Work Desk
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre – Work Desk

What was strange was the positioning of the television – normally, the TV would be mounted directly on the opposite end of the bed, however, it was instead, mounted to the right side of bedroom wall. This meant that I could only watch the TV with my head or body turned which was just a bit awkward.

I am fully aware that bed and pillows are all personal preference, but for my liking, the pillows were far too soft. My head just sunk straight down and it felt like there was no proper support. The bed itself was fine – not too soft, not too hard. In the end, I was able to have a solid night’s sleep.

Bathroom
Albeit small, the bathroom was very clean with nice tiling. The bathroom had a shower unit with a handheld shower head, and the pressure of the water was strong. The mirror in the bathroom was a steam-free mirror. Again, there were basic amenities including shampoo, body wash, body lotion and hand soap.

DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre Bathroom
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre Bathroom

Miscellaneous
Breakfast was a hot buffet consisted of scrambled egg, bacon, sausages, potato pancakes, mushroom, tomato, baked beans and haggis. In addition, there was a selection of cereal, pastries and fruits. There was a coffee machine dispensing latte, cappuccino and coffee. Various juices and water were available too. As an alternative, there was a ‘cooked to order’ option with pancakes, waffles, porridge, omelettes, poached eggs or fried eggs to choose from.

DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre - Hot Buffet Breakfast Spread
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre – Hot Buffet Breakfast Spread
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre - Breakfast Cooked to Order
DoubleTree Edinburgh City Centre – Breakfast Cooked to Order

Summary
All in all, Double Tree Edinburgh City Centre is a solid choice – clean and modern with polite and friendly staff. The location is very central with many iconic attractions within walking distance. It would be a hotel that I would come back to – but only at a decent price. (The corporate rate for this hotel was a whopping GBP 183.94 per night on a weekday, a bit too rich for my personal budget.)