Part 1 of this trip report (my first, so apologies for it going on) covered the LCY-JFK trip on BA001 on Friday 16 October 2009. Part 2 covers my return trip, EWR-LHR, on BA184 on Wednesday 21 October 2009. The trip was a mini-break in New York, and I was using Executive Club miles for the flights. I deliberately chose to come back into LHR to experience Club World on a BA widebody in comparison to Club World | London City on the A318 on the outbound flight.
BA184 is scheduled to depart EWR at 18:25, but having to be out of my hotel by 12:00 I decided to make my way to EWR, especially as check-in opened at 14:30 and I'd have use of the Terraces Lounge. NJ Transit was easy to use from Penn Station (we demolished a few of our big stations too in the UK, but nothing as grand as the old Penn) to Newark Liberty International. From the station I then took the AirTrain to Terminal B, though initially got confused by the signage as to which level the BA check-in was on, before realising it was down in arrivals. When check-in opened at 14:30 there were half a dozen people there already, and surprisingly most were travelling Club World. The check-in agent was very friendly, and when she spotted I'd been on Speedbird 1 on my outbound flight she asked what the flight was like, and what the attraction of LCY over LHR was. She was also nostalgic about the reuse of the old Concorde flight numbers.
With little to do landside at Newark, I made my way towards the TSA line for the Terraces lounge, and Gate B67 where G-VIIK was already on gate from LHR. It was quick to get through, helped by getting put through the priority lane. Hopefully it'll be better once the refurbishment work is complete. The Terraces lounge was easy to locate, and quite roomy inside. I was told pre-flight dining would be available from 16:30. In the meantime I could catch up with news from home with a selection of UK papers brought in that day, plus help myself to refreshments (hot and cold drinks, plus various alcoholic ones) and snacks and sandwiches.
Having just grabbed a light snack for lunch I decided to check the pre-flight dining out. There were various choices, and I had fresh mushroom soup followed by some lamb shepherds pie with chive mash. I skipped having fruit or cheese and biscuits though, as I wanted to eat on the plane so as to sample the on board service too. The dining room seemed to be well used, though I didn't see if anyone was using the separate First Dining Room.
I decided to wander out prior to boarding to get some Duty Free, and to strecth my legs - which seemed unusual to judge from the reaction of the lady on the desk! Boarding, when it began, actually seemed to be a free for all. Despite First and Club World passengers (Plus Gold and Silver EC members) being told they could board at any time, the line for our use had a lot of WT passengers who jumped across. It wasn't an issue for me, but seemed strange and on board I heard one passenger in Club comment that it never happens like that at JFK.
The welcome on board was friendly, with some good banter as we came on too rather than just a plain hello or good evening. I was in seat 14D, an aisle seat in the centre. This was towards the rear of the Club World section. The cabin was pretty full, though at least three of the centre pairs only had one passenger in. Coats were taken promptly, and a pre-flight drink and papers offered efficiently amongst everyone else boarding and walking through. The Captain was keen to get away as one of the VC-25s was on the ground and we were told it was Air Force One. I don't know if President Obama was in New Jersey that day, but the worry was we'd be held on the ground if they wanted to shut the airport whilst it took off. In the event we were away just before 19:00, with a flight time of just over 6 hours and due to land at LHR at a couple of minutes after 06:00 on Thursday morning.
I found the Club World seat comfortable, though the Club World | London City feels wider. However, the armrests are the same height in normal Club World, and the footrest I found better in that you can adjust it to match the seat (low in normal, recline; angled for 'Z' shape; and flat but higher for bed mode). All in all, though the CWLC seat feels wider and more open, I prefer the NCW seat. The storage drawer was very handy in flight, and the tray table and monitor were easier to use. Was nice to have individual gasper vents on the A318 though!
Once in the air the drinks service came round promptly and dinner orders were taken. A nice touch was that the Purser had written everyone's names on the cabin plan and addressed us by them. Starter was a very nice Mixed green salad with grilled asparagus, truffle oil, Reggiano Parmesan and cucumber. For mains we had a choice of: -
* Seared fillet of beef with ratatouille and duchess potatoes.
* Chicken tikka masala with basmati rice and korma vegetables.
* Sweet pepper and smoked Mozzarella ravioli with spinach cream sauce and Parmesan.
Seemed to be no issue over choices, probably helped by the fact that approximately a third of the cabin seemed to settle straight down to sleep. For those wanting a light snack, the Goodnight Express option was: -
* Warm roast beef sandwich with blue cheese and grilled asparagus served with mixed green salad.
I went with the beef, and was surprised when the starter was served that one of the dessert options was one every tray already - Wildflower honey cheesecake with almonds. The other dessert was cheese and biscuits, and was offered out after the mains. Once starters had been served, they were cleared and main courses served up. Meal service was efficient, though felt more rushed than the outward flight. The shorter flight, and the fact it was overnight probably influenced this.
I've read various things about BA's cabin service, i.e. when it's good it's very very good, but when it's bad... well leave it there! I found the crew friendly and personable. I've already mentioned the little touch of the Purser noting everyone's names when taking the meal order. The crew were happy to stop and have a small chat too, one asking where I was from in the UK because of my accent, etc. They seemed to be working well together, though the CSD was seen sparingly (as can be a norm from other trip reports I've read). The LCY (LGW based) crew probably pipped their LHR colleagues for friendliness, though the LHR crew were the more polished. It didn't detract from the service on the LCY-JFK flight, but someone who wants formal service might have preferred the LHR offering.
With the meal service out of the way, the drinks were offered again. Some people also opted for a hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies, but even I said no to that! Lights were then dimmed and I decided to try the bed mode. It was very comfortable, and whilst I could not lie straight out without kicking the seat in front (6ft 5" doesn't fit laying straight on a 6ft bed) it was no different to being at home! I managed a couple of hours sleep, then about 4am UK time woke up and popped the seat into 'Z' mode, which was equally comfortable and listened to some music. Being one of the earlier BA 777's it did not have AVOD, but I equally understand BA not upgrading the system when it is due to launch its new Thales system from 2010 onwards which will need a rewire anyway.
Breakfast was to be a light afare, with fruit, yoghurt, bacon roll and selection of breads and pastries being on offer. As the menu was only printed in September, I was suprised when someone was told the cereal option (only Special K) had been discontinued. Plenty of tea and coffee was also available. Given the service after EWR I can understand why nothing more would be wanted, but when the Captain announced 10 minutes to the seatbelt sign coming on I have to admit the full English that appeared to being served to someone in First looked very good.
Our prompt landing at LHR went out of the window as we circled over SW London for over twenty minutes, doing two circuits in our stack before heading back out over Berkshire to land on runway 9R. From there we taxied to Terminal 5 and seemed to be at one of the high number B gates (B43?), from where it was a brisk walk to get the shuttle to the main building and hence to baggage reclaim. From what I saw of T5 it seems very efficient, and having used T1, T3 and T4 in the past it is a huge improvement.
So all in two great flights, and I certainly enjoyed BA's service. Now that CO allow one-way mileage redemption I'll look forward to hopefully trying BusinessFirst with them at some point, and making a comparison with BA, as I'm fully aware two international business class flights don't let me make a great comparison with what else is out there! I think the LCY service will prove to be a winner for BA, though I think it will ultimately be at the expense of those Hi-J 744s on the LHR-JFK runs.