Regular commutes from London to Singapore were a fact of life until around two years ago. Hopefully you will enjoy one of my more memorable trips from around June/July 2016.
Also, please excuse some of the blury photography. The mood lighting and an old iphone didn't make for great pictures.
LHR Terminal 5 is a bright and airy place. Arriving at around 6pm it wasn’t too busy either. Having checked in via the BA app, I was annoyed the security readers rejected my pass which required a trip to one of BA’s desks. Queuing only took a few minutes, but it was annoying.
Perhaps an indication of BA’s premium heavy business, Fast Track took a good 15 minutes to clear security. I’ve never taken that long using the normal channels at that time of day.
I headed straight for the smaller Galleries North Lounge, as with a few hours to spare I thought it would be nice to enjoy the ‘outside’ deck. This deck is very much inside, but it feels like outside.
With landings on the runway next door, as was the case, it’s a great place to pass a few hours. After half an hour or so I checked the screens for my flight status. “Delayed” with no eta. Oh darn. So I wandered over to the help desk for further information. BA’s agent was very pleasant, but I’d love to know what their system said, because I’ve never seen an airline employee pull such a shocked face….
The reason will become clear later on……
Having missed breakfast and lunch I was starving, so shamelessly amassed quite an evening meal from the buffet counter.
Whilst you can’t complain, there was nothing premium about it. I imagine the chilli was from a tin and that kind of sets the standard.
I headed over to 5C on the little train. With one out of service and several A380s and 777-300ERs all departing very close together, there was one hell of a crush coupled with delays.
Fortunately I didn’t need to worry about that. Awaiting me was G-XLEL, BA’s last A380 that had been delivered only two weeks earlier, seen here on its delivery flight take off.
How exciting to be on the upper deck of a brand new A380! Club World upper deck is a 2x3x2 configuration. I’d bagged 59F, a centre aisle seat at the rear of the cabin. These seats get almost no traffic, as although the person in row E can choose to cut past you, in practice they use the other aisle, having boarded via it. Therefore you get a forward facing aisle seat without your neighbour cutting across. Because the curtain to World Traveller Plus is almost directly behind, there is very little aisle traffic either.
Storage in BA’s Club World seat is notoriously inadequate. There is a small draw that can fit a lap top or shoes, but not both. That is all. However at this particular seat I had my own overhead bin, which worked fine.
For this next section you now need to imagine a submarine siren going off in the background, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, First Officer here. Welcome aboard the latest addition to the British Airways fleet, factory fresh just two weeks ago. We’ve got a full load of passenger’s tonight, so thank you for arriving at the gate on time. Unfortunately we’ve got one or two issues we’re just working through, well……, there’s a hole in the right hand wing that’s been found. We’re just liaising with Airbus in Toulouse to work out a fix. I know a lot of you have connecting flights in Singapore, but I’m sure the cabin and ground crew will do everything they can to assist. In the mean time please accept my apologies and I’ll keep you up to date with the news from Toulouse”
. I need to emphasise the siren sounding in the background, apparently caused by an unrelated fault.
I must say the cabin crew’s reaction was superb. The lead crew member came around to every premium class passenger, introduced herself by name and shook their hand. She also personally went around to every economy class block of seats to do the same. That’s a rare level of service.
I opted for some orange juice during the delay. As you can see, for what is now a very old seat, Club World does offer excellent leg room and no foot well.
Just before 2330 we pushed back, very late by Heathrow standards.
Once in the air menus were handed out.
Around 45 minutes after take off a welcome aboard glass of champagne arrived, which I guess reflects being the last of almost 100 Club World passengers on board.
Trays were delivered by cart, with the starter salad already in situ and a champagne top up. The cabin crew made polite small talk with each passenger whilst going about their business. The mozzarella was particularly nice.
This was cleared away, followed by my choice of fillet steak delivered by hand, with the champagne glass progressively topped up.
A simple cheese cake desert and some small chocolates followed.
The taste and quality of each course was perfectly acceptable restaurant quality.
The cabin lights were turned off, leaving the odd green glow of BA’s IFE screens. Despite being brand new, a lot of seats had problems with their IFE screens. The screens lock sideways, to watch them you have to swing it on an arm. For whatever reason many of these arms were too loose, so the screens swung back making them unwatchable. Happily mine worked fine.
I reclined the seat into sleep mode and dozed off somewhere over Belarus. I find the seat very good to sleep in for three reasons. Firstly, the ‘mattress’ for want of a better term doesn’t have the lumps and joins of many lie flat beds. Secondly, there is no foot well, which as someone with fairly clumsy feat I find restrictive. Third, many lie flat beds have you sleeping very low to the ground like a camp bed, Club World is at a normal height.
Unfortunately some fairly bumpy turbulence over the Bay of Bengal woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I went to explore the cabin and check out the snack station. As you can see the contents were very limited
Around two hours out of Singapore breakfast was served. The tray came with some fruit and hot bread from the basket. I opted for coffee, which despite being filter, was very good. A full english breakfast followed which was surprisingly good.
The cabin crew made three or four announcements confirming transfer passengers rebooking arrangements. I was surprised so many passengers had been originally been booked on connecting Air Asia flights. Everyone’s rebooking arrangements were explained over the PA, including their new flights gate and terminal. The crew came around to each passenger who had missed their connection to confirm the new arrangements in person. In honesty it was impressive, very few airlines make that much effort.
Peak arrivals time at Changi had long passed by landing, so we took a remarkably straight course in. On exiting the aircraft a small army of ground staff were on hand to assist passengers with their rescheduled transfer arrangements. Immigration took no more than five minutes and I was off in the back of a taxi within 15 minutes of stepping into the terminal.Verdict:
Club World is a solid product for business travellers, but lacks any kind of wow factor which premium tourists might look for.
BA handled the delay and subsequent disruption for transfer passengers better than I have seen in a long time. I must say the cabin crew genuinely went above and beyond.
A lot has been said about Club World’s venerable seat. Storage is ridiculously limited, which is hopeless unless you’re in an aisle seat on most aircraft (although upstairs on the A380 there is window box storage). However, for sleep it’s one of the best out there, provided your seat mate doesn’t wake you up to reach the toilet.
For the world weary business traveller who simply wants food they know they can eat and a sleep - Club World ticks the box.