Guest Reviewer: Chris
An avid traveler and obsessive points and miles hound, Chris is my travel buddy extraordinaire. I love him for his enthusiasm, his sense of adventure, and his many lounge access credit cards. Hope you enjoy his perspective!
Back in March, I wrote about how to book partner award flights on Etihad Airways. We originally booked First Apartments both to Abu Dhabi from London and from Abu Dhabi back to London over the Thanksgiving holiday, but unfortunately, the airplane for our flight from London was switched from an A380 (which has First Apartments) to an A340 (which has Etihad's standard First Class). The airplane switch was somewhat devastating, but at least we will still experience the Apartments on our way home. We planned a whirlwind luxury long weekend in Dubai around these flights and I'll be covering all the details in upcoming posts.
Review: British Airways Club World SFO - LHR
Review: LHR Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge
Review: Etihad Airways First Class LHR - AUH
Review: Park Hyatt Dubai
Review: Afternoon Tea at At.mosphere Burj Khalifa
Review: Burj al Arab Part I: One Bedroom Suite
Review: Burj al Arab Part II: Grounds and Amenities
Review: AUH Etihad Airways Premium Lounge
Review: Etihad Airways First Apartments AUH - LHR
When Jen and I decided to book the Etihad A380 First Apartment for Thanksgiving, we'd only found flights between London and Abu Dhabi. That left us with the problem of how to get to and from London. We weren't able to find any award space from San Francisco, and there were no amazing deals for paid business class. After researching our options, we decided to spend cash to book British Airways World Traveller Plus (which is what they call premium economy), and then use Avios points to upgrade to Club World (which is what they call business class).
British Airways (BA) #286
San Francisco (SFO) - London (LHR)
Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
8:20 PM - 2:45 PM (+1)
Boeing 747-400 Club World
The British Airways Terraces Lounge at SFO lets passengers board directly from the lounge, which is a nice feature, even though the lounge itself is nothing special otherwise. About 45 minutes before departure, we noticed some of the other passengers lining up, so we joined the queue and were onboard the 747-400 shortly thereafter. When we boarded the plane, we were greeted by a flight attendant who explained how to find our seats (down the aisle, then up the stairs).
It was our first time experiencing the 747 upper deck, and I have to admit I liked it. It's a pretty small area, so the environment feels calmer and more civilized than the madness of the main deck. Seating is in a 2-2 arrangement, compared to 2-4-2 on the main deck, and there are two bathrooms, which is more than enough given the small number of passengers. The aisle was one of the widest I've seen on a plane, and the cabin felt spacious overall.
After we'd gotten comfortable, flight attendants came by a few times to hang up our coats, provide a pre-departure beverage (a choice of champagne, water, or orange juice), and hand out newspapers and amenity kits. The amenity kits were unisex cloth bags that contained a toothbrush and some products by Elemis.
The seats have a quite a few disadvantages compared to other business class products. They don't have all-aisle access, so passengers stuck in window or middle seats have to climb over the legs of others to get out. They're in a yin-yang configuration, so pairs of passengers face each other. That wasn't a problem for us as a couple, but seems like it would be awkward for passengers who don't know each other. There is a divider that can be raised, but it needs to be lowered for flight attendants to serve food and drinks. The aisle seats are also completely exposed; there's no partition on one side, so it feels like you're sleeping in the aisle. Finally, the pillow was thin and basically useless.
On the plus side, the seats recline to a fully lie-flat position, and the window seats have plenty of privacy. On the upper deck, the window seats also have several storage cabinets, so if I were traveling by myself I would definitely try to snag an upstairs window seat. Annoyingly, British Airways charges for advance seating assignments even in business class, but fortunately we had the fee waived due to our oneworld Emerald status.
After takeoff, the flight attendants came by with a cart to take drink orders, and I decided to go for a Kir Royale, which was served with a bag of mixed nuts. A little while later, they served our dinners. The menu read as follows:
Smoked trout with horseradish cream and beetroot salad
Grilled halloumi and portobello mushroom with olive tapenade and pepper drops
Fresh seasonal salad served with vegetables
Seared filet of Midwest beef with mushroom sauce and Pont-Neuf potatoes
Seared sea bream with coconut ginger sauce, coriander rice and stir-fried vegetables
Gnocchi filled with Asiago cheese and fire roasted pepper sauce
Chilled main course fattoush salad with sumac chicken and yoghurt and mint dressing
Mango and chocolate slice
New England Cave Aged Cheddar and Gorgonzola with quince paste
A selection of fruit
The appetizer and salad course was not a big hit. Both of us got the halloumi (a grilled cheese), and it tasted pretty bad. After clearing our plates, they then brought our main courses - Jen went with the steak, and I chose the gnocchi with pepper sauce. My pasta was OK, but Jen thought her steak tasted "like a shoe". Fortunately, the dessert redeemed the meal somewhat; we both got the chocolate and mango slice, which was delicious!
Once the meal service had completed, they dimmed the cabin lights, and I decided to watch a movie. The 747-400 is not a new plane, and the entertainment system is proof of it - the screen is small and blurry, and the user interface is not at all responsive. I watched Inside Out, then put my seat in the lie-flat position to catch a few hours of sleep. Although I was completely exposed to the aisle, I slept pretty comfortably. When I woke up, I found that a flight attendant had placed a bottle of water at my seat, which I appreciated.
An hour or two before landing, breakfast was served. The menu read:
Fresh seasonal fruit
Greek yoghurt with peach compote
Warm bacon roll served with tomato ketchup
Traditional breakfast grill
Potato and leek rosti
Continental breakfast platter of ham, turkey, Swiss cheese and Cheddar
Warm ciabatta featuring bacon, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes
Neither of us were thrilled by the options, so we both stuck with starters. I ordered Greek yogurt and Jen went with a plate of fruit. Since we were flying British Airways, we decided to also get some English breakfast tea, which is Jen's favorite. The flight attendants came by to hand out landing cards and Fast Track passes for customs, and we were on the ground shortly thereafter.
While I was glad to not be flying in economy, I wasn't super impressed by Club World. It's not something I'd go out of my way to avoid, but it's not something I'd be excited to fly again. When it comes to transatlantic business class, I think American Airlines has a much better product overall (at least on their 777-300ER and refurbished 777-200 planes), since they offer all-aisle access and more privacy, with roughly equivalent food and service.
2/16/2016 08:41:33 pm
I flew on this same flight June 2015. It was my first experience in BA Business Class and I was not impressed at all. My experience was very similar to yours. I also sat in the aisle and my wife sat in the window seat.
@Jason, I'm sorry you had a similar experience! It was definitely a bit of a disappointment and we were definitely glad to be using miles rather than paying for the flight, but it's still a bit difficult to part with them for something like this. We've flown BA Economy on the A380 and it was actually quite nice since the plane was new and things were upgraded.
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