Climbing aboard British Airways BA15 from Sydney to London, via Singapore, I knew I’d be in for a great trip. What better way to fly to the motherland than with British Airways? I’ll admit it had been a while since I’d flown with BA, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is it as good as I remembered? Well, pour yourself a cuppa tea, pull up a comfy chair and join me as I endeavour to find out...
Sydney to London via Singapore
Sydney - I've never been one to leave things to the last minute. I tend to err on the side of caution when checking in for an international flight, so arrived a few hours early - only German backpackers and families were doing the same. Despite the separate Club World check-in counter being closed, the process was quick and I was soon winging my way to the lounge for a glass of wine.
London - Heathrow isn't the most exciting airport. One of the world's busiest airports, the best compliment I can give the Terminal 3 is 'functional'. It serves its purpose, but doesn't make you feel at home. British Airways check-in staff are friendly and the queue disappears pretty quickly. Once through the security check, the departures area has a wide selection of gift shops and restaurants, including a Harrods store to pick up souvenirs for the people who slipped my mind earlier.
Sydney - British Airways doesn't have its own airline lounge in Sydney, so it shares with oneworld partner Qantas. If you've been to a Qantas Club before, you'll recognise the neutral colour palette and extensive use of timber throughout. The buffet featured a good selection of tasty treats, from a Moroccan spiced lamb dish to a rather good pea and ham soup, and the bar had a good selection of Australian wines. The pièce de résistance, the lounge has its own gelato bar!
London - The British Airways Lounge at Terminal 3 is shared with oneworld affiliated airlines, so it can be a bit of a mission finding a spare seat. I takes me a couple of laps before I manage to find a spot. While the lounge at Terminal 5 is BA's flagship, the one in T3 doesn't miss a beat and is really well kitted out with a good selection of hot meals and drinks.
British Airways' Club World is split between the lower deck (rows 17-20) with a 2-4-2 layout; and upstairs (rows 60-64) with a more intimate 2-2 seat configuration. Club World has staggered front and rear facing seats - aisle seats face forwards, with window and middle seats facing backwards.
Instead of being pushed back into your seat at take off, you're pushed forward. It's not bad, just different. Ideal for sleeping or getting work done, I do feel a bit cut off from everything happening around me. It's a surprise each time the steward pokes his head round to ask a question. The seat is ideal for people who want privacy.
My seat, 20F, is accessed via a little nook behind the person to my left. The seat faces a dividing wall between the business and economy cabins, with an opaque screen to my left and another passenger directly to me right. The privacy screen is great, meaning I don't have to awkwardly look away each time I make eye contact with the person to my left. Décor is simple, with a muted colour scheme. One curious addition to the cabin is proper lampshades on the roof; I've never seen this before. It's quirky, and I love it.
One of the few downsides to the seat configuration is lack of storage. The shoe locker is useful, but there isn't really anywhere else I can rest my water bottle or wine glass without folding down the desk in front of me. The seat also has a power outlet, but since I've packed my universal adaptor in my check-in baggage I can't charge my laptop.
On board entertainment:
Club World has a great onboard entertainment system, with touch screen controls and noise-cancelling headphones. Called HighLife, it features more than 100 movies and TV shows, which you can pause, fast forward and rewind, plus a large selection of music and interactive games. The touch screen system is responsive, and there are more than enough options to keep me entertained.
There were four crewmembers looking after the Club World cabin, including Cabin Manager Andrew Smith who has been working for British Airways for 27 years. Quizzing him on his thoughts about what sets BA apart from its competitors, he said "we offer a distinctly British experience that people just can't get on other airlines."
I agree, but although the service was good during meal times, later into the flight it felt as though simple requests such as additional water or a new headset were too much for the staff to manage - interrupting them from their down time. With that said however, the service was still better than many of my previous trips in Economy.
Food and beverages:
My flight kicked off with a welcome glass of Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne. British Airways have created an in-flight dining menu called 'Height Cuisine', which is designed to maximise taste at high altitudes. For my starter I had crayfish, fennel and lime tian with a roasted pepper dressing; while my main was seabass with a lemon butter sauce. Heston Blumenthal was a creative ambassador for BA in the lead up to the London Olympics, and elements of his philosophy are still evident in the menu today. Meals were paired with a wine selection from France and Australia.
The Club World seat was the best option for me, allowing me to get some sleep and avoid the dreaded jetlag. I'd recommend BA in a second. If you're travelling on your own, try one of the single forward facing seats. If travelling as a couple, the side-by-side rear facing seats give you privacy and room to spread out. British Airways doesn't have the bells and whistles of some airlines, but it makes you feel at home as soon as you step on board.
-The writer travelled as a guest of British Airways
British Airways operates daily services from Sydney to London via Singapore.
Find out more - http://www.britishairways.com