This review focuses on British Airways (BA) Club World business class flight. To read about the outbound journey in BA First, please click here
All BA flights to Hong Kong, as well as the majority of its services depart from London Heathrow's state-of-the-art Terminal 5. Club World customers are invited to use T5 North Galleries or South Galleries business lounges. Both facilities are well-staffed, bright, and modern with terrific runway views, but tend to get busy, especially during peak hours, so finding a suitable place to sit to dine and work can sometimes prove challenging. In addition to free wifi, there are plenty of international newspapers and magazines, power outlets and PCs.
Depending on the time of day, breakfast, lunch or dinner spreads will be laid out, typically comprising many comfort food options - salads, curry, chili con carne, pasta, rice, baked potatoes, hams and cheese. There was also a self-service juice and coffee station, as well as wine.
Boarding for the 21:00 pm flight started at 20:20 pm. The B and C gates are situated in satellites separated from T5's main building by underground train, so plan for at least 15 minutes from the lounge the gate. When I finally got to the C concourse, boarding was already well underway. There were no more lines and I was processed immediately. At the door, the cabin chief was greeting passengers and directing me to my window seat, where I got busy unpacking and getting comfortable. After a few minutes a friendly flight attendant welcomed me again and offered me a welcome drink (Taittinger champagne, orange juice or water).
Club World seats 56 passengers across seven rows in a zig-zag 2-4-2 forward-backward facing formation. Having got used to flying business cabins with four seats per row, I was startled for a moment by the eight seats BA has in each row. The center section has four seats — the aisle seats face forwards, and then the two middle seats face backwards. While worth the consideration when travelling as a family or couple, these center seats could become awkwardly intimate when next to a perfect stranger.
The seat converts into a full-flat 180-degree bed, despite being rather narrow, and offers quite a few options for storing your belongings. I recommend a window seat (A or K). These still offer direct aisle access owing to the zig-zag layout, but they are significantly more private than the traffic-exposed aisle seats. The duvets and pillows provided were adequate, and the amenity kit offered the usual items needed for a 12-hour overnight flight.
Once airborne, menu cards were handed out and the supper service began. For starters, there were seared black pepper prawns with carrot, black bean and sweetcorn Cajun salad, or hazelnut and herb-crusted goat's cheese with celeriac, kohlrabi, and rosemary apple pomegranate dressing. I tried both, and wasn't disappointed. Good quality and great taste. For mains, there was a choice of seared fillet of British beef with roast new potatoes, onion soubise, buttered cabbage and bourguignon sauce, or creamy wild mushroom orrecchiette pasta with Barber's cheese and tarragon. Alternatively, there was a Chinese option – fried chicken with mushrooms in light soy sauce, bean curd and steamed rice, or a cold option – Caesar salad with seared Scottish salmon.
I slept for a good six hours, then got up to do some work. Realizing I was awake, the crew quickly came around asking if I needed anything and wanted breakfast. On first instinct, remembering the breakfast on my outbound flight, I thought no, but changed my mind when I saw a cold continental option on the menu with Wiltshire, salami, speck, gruyere and Cornish cheese. Other options were said traditional English spread, beef congee, or a muffin with scrambled eggs, asparagus and salmon. There were fresh juices and smoothies as well.
One thing I thought was odd is that BA does not serve espresso in Club World. I asked for it, but was told this was only available in BA First.
Good. While the cabin feels a little on the dense side, the product remains solid. The BA crew is experienced, and often good for a chat, a joke and a wink. For those who like to wine and dine on-board, there are many different, and high-quality options. Sure, there are newer and swankier business cabins out there, but I would fly BA's non-stop Hong Kong-London service any time instead of adding at least 4-5 hours to the journey by flying via one of the Middle East hubs.