BA Club World – SYD-BKK-LHR inc QF SYD/BKK First lounges (w/pics)
This is Part 3 of a series of three trip reports. Part 1 can be viewed here; http://origin-www.airliners.net/avia...ums/trip_reports/read.main/176570, whilst Part 2 can be viewed here; QF Domestic Y SYD-CNS-MEL-SYD + J Lounges (w/pics) (by Genius12 Oct 17 2010 in Trip Reports)
This is the rather belated final part of my Australia 2010 series of trip reports, and picks up from the previous report where I had arrived airside at Sydney’s international terminal and was heading towards the Qantas First lounge. Apologies for the degenerating quality of photos during this report – my little compact camera was on its last legs, and has since been replaced by a lovely Canon G12!
The SYD Qantas First lounge regularly tops polls for the world’s best airline lounge, and it certainly is impressive. The design, by Marc Newson, is rather retro, but I instantly liked the look and feel of the lounge. The lounge entrance is located on the mezzanine level above the main departure lounge, and is separate from the international Business lounge entrance, which is farther along the corridor. A member of staff greeted us at the entrance and checked eligibility (in this case, my BA Gold card), before directing us up the escalators to the lounge itself. We walked passed the ‘living wall’ feature to our left, and a small seating area to the right, before ascending the escalators and emerging into the oval reception area, with the welcome desks directly ahead of us. Our BPs were checked once again, and we were invited to take a seat.
Clickety-clack departure boards
The lounge it essentially a long corridor, and features a spa, waiter-service restaurant with open kitchen, self-service bars, library area, meeting rooms, business areas, and ample private seating areas. Each area is broken up by a large wooden divider, essentially creating different ‘rooms’ to the lounge. The whole lounge was bathed in sunlight on our visit, with a fantastic view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the gate area, runway and the Sydney skyline in the distance. Impressive.
Self-serve bar near the spa
Self-serve bar close-up
There’s always one…
One of the waiter service points in the seating areas
We took a seat near the spa and in an instant a waiter approached us and asked if we would like anything to drink, or to eat in the restaurant. We said we would like to eat a little later, and he hurried off to reserve us a table, later bringing back two fresh (squeezed on the spot) orange juices. Fantastic.
Qantas 747 and Etihad A340-600 viewed from the lounge
Etihad pushing back
QF A380 viewed from the lounge, with Sydney skyline behind
Loading the QF 747
After settling in, and as lunch reservation time approached, we ambled over to the restaurant and were shown to a table, alas not by the window (all occupied), but a nice spot nevertheless. The tables were beautifully set up, and the service was faultless. I opted for a club sandwich, which was promptly delivered and of an excellent quality. This knocks the socks off BA’s Concorde Room in terms of service standards and quality of produce, although when comparing the two lounges as a whole, I prefer the Concorde Room’s more refined atmosphere, as access is exclusively for passengers flying First and other selected VIPs, whereas the Qantas First lounge is a oneworld Emerald affair.
Restaurant table set-up
View from the restaurant
Manned bar, adjacent to the open kitchen
After lunch we relocated to a comfier position nearer the windows towards the library. The waiting staff seem to be most proactive when you are new to the lounge, and tend not to approach you once you’ve been settled for a while unless you catch their eye. Similar to the BA Galleries First lounges at LHR, there are menus throughout the lounge, and shortly I ordered a hot chocolate, together with a scrumptious ice cream dessert, both consumed whilst enjoying the fantastic view.
View from the end of the lounge
Alternative view from the library end of the lounge
Meeting rooms to the left
Bookable meeting room
View from the library end of the lounge
Self-serve bar near the library
BA’s daily presence at SYD
Before long I noticed the BA 777 pushing back for the earlier departure to LHR via SIN, and adjacent to it, our 747 operating the BKK route. I had been toying with the idea for some time, but eventually it got the better of me, and I approached the reception desk to enquire about an upgrade to First. I was directed to the BA transfer desk outside the lounge, but was here informed the cost would be a staggering AUD2000 per person for a J to F upgrade, so I promptly declined!
Male washroom interior
As departure time neared, we left the lounge and headed towards our gate, quite some distance from the lounge.
Exiting the lounge
Escalators down to the main departure lounge
Living wall closer up
Boarding had not yet commenced as we arrived at the gate, but there was a sizeable crowd milling around. In a small gate area such as that, it was noticeable just how many people a 747 can carry! Shortly, our names were paged along with a few others, and my heart skipped a beat as I thought we had been upgraded… alas, it was just a baggage receipt check, as we had connected from another flight…
Priority boarding was strictly enforced through two separate lanes, to the extent that the ineligible people using the Fast Track lane were sent to the back of the ‘normal’ queue… T5 could learn some lessons here! We were directed down the first airbridge, connected to Door 1L, and pointed in the direction of the stairs. Through the forward World Traveller Plus cabin on this horrible 52J configured aircraft, we ascended to the upper deck and were welcomed onboard by the friendly upper deck crew and directed to our seats – 62JK, in the middle of the small upper deck cabin.
Date: September 2010
Route: Sydney Kingsford Smith [SYD] (T1) – Bangkok Suvarnabhumi [BKK]
First Flight/Delivery: 1998/1998
Seats: 62J, 62K
Class: Club World
This aircraft was really showing its age, with panels scratched and marked, carpet fraying and a noticeable amount of dirt in the crevices. The seat area itself was fairly clean, however, but by no means immaculate (which it should be).
62AB, Club World upper deck
View from 62K
Settling into 62K, the seat with endless amount of legroom when the footrest is down, I was offered a pre-departure drink of water, OJ or champagne, to which I accepted an OJ, which was fresh, but not quite as nice as the QF First lounge offering.
Amenity kits and hot towels were shortly distributed around the cabin from a basket, and I was pleased to note that the awful pouch type amenity bag with poppers had been replaced by a far more sensible and re-useable bag. The usual array of Elemis products was present, all of a good quality.
Amenity kit contents
Menu and wine list
At this time, menus were also distributed, and choices collected before takeoff. Below is the dinner menu for the SYD-BKK leg;
Smoked salmon with cracked black pepper and cream cheese
Char-grilled asparagus with Parmesan dessing
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
Hungarian beef goulash with parsley-buttered new potatoes and sautéed mixed cabbage
Parmesan chicken on bow-tie pasta with pomodoro sauce and broccoli
Vegetable biryani – vegetables in fragrant rice
Chilled main course Italian antipasto salad of prosciutto ham, Mozzarella and grilled vegetables with extra virgin olive oil
Chocolate ganache with berry coulis
A selection of cheese
A selection of fruit
I opted for the salmon starter, followed by the curry, and the chocolate ganache to finish.
Shortly after takeoff, another drinks run was offered by the proactive and friendly crew - I was addressed by name several times during the service. The usual birdseed was given out, and collected straight back in again…
The meal service began promptly, with a very good and excellently-presented starter (but why no plate for the bread?!), an adequate main course and a delicious dessert. It is usually the case in Club World that starters and desserts are good and the main course a little bland, and today was no exception. I was pleased to see the dessert being brought out after the main course, as on shorter Club World sectors, the dessert is presented together with the starter, which is a little off-putting. The ‘no plate for bread’ situation really needs to be sorted out, however.
Main course curry
After the meal service, through which regular drinks runs were performed, I reclined the comfortable Club World seat and settled in with the AVOD – I had, of course, cleaned the screen with the hot towel prior to departure. Selections were good, but not great, as is usual for BA. Surprisingly, the system didn’t play up once throughout the two long sectors back to London. I didn’t get any sleep on the first sector, out of choice, but the Club World seat remains excellent in terms of comfort. 62AK are fantastically private, perhaps more so than most First seats, but on the whole privacy is not great in the Club World cabins, particularly in the aisle seats. Storage remains an issue with this iteration of the Club World design – the side bins on the upper deck are useful, but the laptop tray is inaccessible when the seat is flat, and there is no additional storage. Having come from Qantas First on the A380, the seat felt quite narrow and ‘closed in’ – rather coffin-like.
As we neared Bangkok, a ‘refreshment’ service was offered;
An individual selection of finger sandwiches
Roast vegetable and couscous salad
Apple tea cake
Not sure what the point of stating ‘sweets’ is, when only one sweet is offered. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, and neither were the sandwiches (although I was pleased to note that they were presented on the plate, rather than wrapped).
We touched down in Bangkok on time, and an announcement was made that all London-bound passengers would have to disembark and clear security again (pointless, in my opinion), with re-boarding commencing in one hour. Thanking the crew, we disembarked and were met at the top of the premium airbridge (connected to Door 1L) by ground staff offering pieces of paper with lounge directions and the re-boarding time printed on them.
Bangkok airport rather confused me, probably due to the fact that it was around 11.30pm local time and my body clock said it was the early hours of the morning, but eventually we found our way to the security checkpoint, were summoned through the Fast Track lane and subsequently walked for what seemed like ages to the joint BA/QF lounges. The First and Business lounges are located opposite each other either side of a corridor, and we were welcomed (rather coldly) into the First lounge (to the left) and again advised that boarding would begin in about an hour.
BKK First lounge overview
BKK First lounge detail
Food service area
BKK First lounge washrooms
The First lounge is quite small, and is divided into three distinct seating areas, with a self-service food and bar area at the top adjacent to the showers and washrooms, a central seating area, and a larger seating and business centre area closer to the reception desk. The lounge did get quite full, but was clean and the staff were fairly proactive in clearing empties away. The staff on this occasion were not particularly pleasant, however, and exuded a rather cold image to their lounge guests. A delay to boarding was posted on the screens, and we sipped coffee in an attempt to stay awake, but by this time were feeling rather the worse for wear. I guess in day time the lounge would have a good view of the gate area, and therefore may feel slightly more open, but in darkness nothing much could be seen due to the reflection on the curved exterior windows, lending a rather dark and claustrophobic atmosphere to the lounge. Certainly not a patch on many other airline lounges, and not exactly first class in standard.
We knew that the gate was located some way away, and so left in plenty of time to find boarding already under way. No Fast Track was evident, but luckily it looked as though only F and J were currently boarding, and so there was no queue as we made our way down the airbridge once more to Door 1L and were welcomed on board.
Date: September 2010
Route: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi [BKK] – London Heathrow [LHR] (T3)
First Flight/Delivery: 1998/1998
Seats: 62J, 62K
Class: Club World
The crew on this sector were not great. The departure time of this flight, around 00:30 local time, is horrible, but that is no excuse for the crew to be a little frosty in their manner. They went through the motions required of them, but didn’t do anything over and above the average and didn’t particularly make passengers feel welcome. Furthermore, it was obvious that the cleaning in BKK hadn’t been done to a good standard, as the washrooms had bits of toilet paper on the floor, and the area around the seat remained a little grubby. Not good enough.
Load sheet issues
View from 62J
View before pushback
For this sector I had swapped to the aisle seat, 62J, and therefore had a good view into the cockpit as load sheets were sorted out and we waited a considerable amount of time for baggage to be loaded – it can’t have been fun in the back of the plane with this 45 minute delay.
The standard pre-departure drinks, hot towels and amenity kits were offered whilst on the ground, and menus distributed once again. By the time we were airborne and meal choices were being taken, I really was flaking from tiredness, and so politely declined the dinner service in favour of just the fruit plate and some mineral water before settling down for the night. The cabin crew member serving me didn’t seem to take too kindly to this – goodness knows why, as it meant one less passenger for her to worry about! The fruit plate was slow to arrive, and when it did it wasn’t particularly nice. It was surely obvious that I wanted to sleep, but the plate was slow to be collected and mineral water took an age to be delivered. For completeness, here is the dinner menu for the BKK-LHR sector;
Shrimp, crab and coconut salad with Thai salsa
Oven-roasted balsamic tomato and Mozzarella salad
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
Grilled fillet steak with grain mustard sauce, roast pumpkin, spinach and potatoes
Chicken makhanwala – Chicken with a butter and tomato sauce
Penne pasta tossed in wild mushroom sauce
Chilled main course salad of seared salmon with cracked black pepper, spring onion and potato
Passion fruit tart
Emmenthal and peppered goat’s cheese
A selection of fruit
I didn’t realise it at the time, but it would appear from the menu that in Club World, only whole fruit is offered, and so the cabin crew must have sourced my fruit plate from First. This may go some way to explaining the delay, and well done to the crew for going to the trouble of doing down to First to get it for me, but it doesn’t explain the cabin crew members’ frosty attitude and generally unfriendly service during the flight.
The rest of the flight until breakfast passed by in a blur of sleep, AVOD-watching, drinks-fetching (from the mini Club Kitchen set up at the rear of the upper deck) and being bumped by the occupant of the forward window seat as she got up to visit the washroom. The aisle seats are certainly not very private when sleeping, although the comfort of the Club World seat remains good. Talking a walk along the main deck to the back of the aircraft was actually rather sobering, and made me realise that I was very lucky to be in Club World, despite my grumbles.
Breakfast was served around two hours out of London, with the menu being as follows;
Chilled fruit juice
An energising fruit smoothie
Fresh seasonal fruit
A selection of warmed breads and breakfast pastries
Classic British breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms and grilled tomato
Cheese and chive omelette with sautéed mushrooms, tomato and rosti potatoes
Stir-fried bamee noodles with chicken
As I would be eating in the arrivals lounge, I just opted for the fruit smoothie and a cup of tea.
62B after breakfast
Arrival was smooth and we were shortly docked at the gate at T3. Door 2L was being used to exit the aircraft today, and the crew held back the World Traveller Plus passengers from the forward cabin as the main deck and upper deck Club World cabins emptied.
One extremely long walk to immigration later, and we were through to landside arrivals after a short wait for our baggage. A quick conversation at the customer service desk concerning a dented suitcase resulted in a replacement suitcase being delivered to our home 2 days later – excellent service, BA!
The American Airlines Arrivals lounge is rather difficult to locate, but can be found by walking to the right after exiting airside and ascending to the mezzanine level in the lift, roughly opposite Travelex. We were welcomed in on production of our BPs, and deposited our bags at the (unattended) drop-off point, before taking a relaxing shower in the well thought out shower suites. I found the water pressure much better than in the BA Galleries Arrivals lounge at T5, and the design of the shower suites is such that water doesn’t leak onto the floor outside the shower cubicle itself.
AArrivals lounge seating and business area
AArrivals lounge breakfast service area
Feeling more human again, I made my way out into the main lounge seating area, which is quite small, but functional. Knowing that the breakfast selection was not wonderful at the AA lounge, we hopped on the HEx to T5 and recuperated for a couple of hours in the BA arrivals lounge, which has a much more extensive breakfast selection amid generally nicer surroundings. The Elemis Travel Spa was utilised, a really good service, despite not being to everyone’s taste.
BA Galleries Arrivals lounge overview
Entrance (to the right) seen from within the lounge
BA Galleries Arrivals food service area
Cereal and porridge
Concorde Breakfast Room, for arriving BA First passengers only
News Zone, looking towards the showers and infinity bathrooms
Work & Entertainment Zone
A HEx and First Great Western train later, and we were back home in the glorious English countryside after a truly fantastic couple of weeks in Australia.
The Qantas First lounge in Sydney is fantastic – it is certainly one of the best lounges out there in terms of amenities and service, although the atmosphere of the BA Concorde Room in London just pips Qantas’s offering, in my opinion.
BA continues to offer a fairly solid longhaul business class product. The hard product is good, the seat is comfortable, the AVOD adequate, but the design of the cabin is not as private as some of its competitors. These two sectors show how varied BA crews can be, and it is unfortunate that on such a long sector we were landed with an unfriendly set. Club World food quality, in particular the main courses, remains suspect, and really needs to be improved upon if BA is to keep up with the likes of CX and SQ.
Thanks for reading, and as always I look forward to any comments or questions that may have arisen during your read!