Review: British Airways Club World 747 London To New York

Filed Under: British Airways

My flight from Nairobi arrived at Terminal 3, while my connecting flight to New York was departing from Terminal 5. After a great flight my good luck continued, as my transit was seamless.

I got on the connector bus between terminals, the bus wasn’t even full, and it left within a few minutes. When I got to Terminal 5 it was still pretty quiet, and I was through security in record time. 30 minutes from deplaning in Terminal 3 to being through security in Terminal 5 is just about a new record for me.

Heathrow Terminal 5

I was through security by 6:30AM, and my connecting flight was supposed to board at 7:45AM. Rather than going to the lounge I just headed straight to the B pier, where I knew my flight would depart from. The area was empty so I just sat down in the gate area and got some work done on my laptop.

A Christmas tree in late October? Oy!

Heathrow Terminal 5

Eventually the departure board indicated that my flight would depart from gate B43, where a beautiful 747 in the oneworld livery was waiting for us.

Heathrow Terminal 5 departure gate

British Airways 747 Heathrow

Sure enough, boarding started at 7:45AM. As you might expect, the JFK flights are super premium, so the number of people in the premium queues was enormous. This flight would be operated by the version of the 747 featuring 86 business class seats and 14 first class seats, and that doesn’t even include all the elite members presumably traveling in economy and premium economy.

British Airways 117
London (LHR) – New York (JFK)
Wednesday, October 31
Depart: 8:25AM
Arrive: 12:30PM
Duration: 8hr5min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 62A (Business Class)

At the door I was greeted by the customer service director and headed straight to the upper deck, much like on the last flight. The upper deck is configured exactly the same as on the previous flight, with 20 Club World seats.

British Airways 747 upper deck

British Airways 747 upper deck

On the last flight I had 62K, the exit row window seat on the right side, while on this flight I had 62A, the exit row window seat on the left side.

British Airways seat 62A

British Airways 747 upper deck exit row seats

As always, the window seats in this configuration are much better than the aisle seats, as the aisle seats feel really exposed.

British Airways 747 upper deck exit row seats

While seat 62K faces a flight attendant jumpseat, 62A just faces the aisle, so it’s nice and private, and you have direct aisle access.

British Airways seat 62A view

You also have a direct view of the person seated next to you whenever the partition is down.

Hello, stranger!

One of the benefits of the 747 I was on was that it featured British Airways’ new entertainment system. In my review of the Nairobi to London flight I noted how the entertainment screen was so low quality that it felt like a TV from two decades ago.

This plane had a new monitor which was much more high definition.

British Airways business class new TV screens

This also came with a more modern entertainment controller.

British Airways business class new entertainment controllers

Other parts of the plane were showing their age, though.

British Airways 747 overhead console

Waiting at my seat upon boarding was the excellent bedding from The White Company.

British Airways business class pillow & blanket

While my previous flight was operated by “mixed fleet” flight attendants (British Airways’ younger and less experienced flight attendants), this flight was operated by one of their “worldwide” crews. Both of the flight attendants working the upper deck were older and much more polished.

In my opinion service from the worldwide crews can vary significantly — sometimes they’re extremely friendly and polished, and other times they’re a bit arrogant and take themselves too seriously. In this case the crew was excellent.

A moment after settling in the flight attendant taking care of me presented me with a bottle of water, amenity kit, and a glass of champagne.

British Airways business class bottled water, amenity kit, and champagne

The upper deck quickly filled up, so as each person arrived they were offered the same. Then about 15 minutes after boarding I was given a menu.

British Airways business class menu

By 8:15AM boarding was complete (with every seat in business class taken — wow!), and a few moments later the captain got on the PA. I love British Airways’ pilot announcements, and this guy had some especially memorable ones.

“I’m Dave, the captain of this here jumbo jet. As we taxi out you’ll see the flaps go up and down. That’s just to make sure they’re working as Mr. Boeing intended. After takeoff we’ll be squeezing the old girl sharply right.”

Our flight time was 7hr15min, and he expected we’d arrive on time in New York.

At 8:30AM we began our pushback, and at that point the safety video was screened.

Then at 8:35AM we started our taxi. We had a really short taxi to our departure runway, and then there were just a couple of planes ahead of us.

Taxiing Heathrow Airport

Taxiing Heathrow Airport

By 8:45AM we were cleared for takeoff. Sitting backwards during takeoff on the upper deck is always an interesting sensation.

Next for takeoff Heathrow

After takeoff we had beautiful views of Terminal 2.

View after takeoff from London

View after takeoff from London

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment selection. While the selection itself was similar to the previous flight, the screen was so much higher quality, which was much appreciated.

British Airways business class new entertainment system

British Airways entertainment selection

British Airways entertainment selection

Even the moving map had a much better setup.

Progress to New York

Progress to New York

The seatbelt sign was turned off 10 minutes after takeoff, and then about 20 minutes after takeoff, breakfast orders were taken.

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

London to New York is an interesting route since it’s the only longhaul one to have British Airways’ new DO & CO catering, which British Airways will eventually switch to for other routes.

Of course it wasn’t ideal that I was on a breakfast flight, since that’s typically the least impressive meal you’ll get on a plane.

Service began with warm towels being distributed.

British Airways business class breakfast — warm towel

I was impressed by how quickly after takeoff service began. I was served the first tray just 30 minutes after takeoff. On lunch and dinner flights they’ll first serve a drink and some nuts, but I guess with breakfast they get straight into the meal.

To start I ordered the smoked salmon as well as a smoothie, both of which were excellent. This was served with a croissant on the side. In addition to the croissant that was served in the breadbasket, there was a further selection of three other breads, though I passed.

British Airways business class breakfast — starter

My main course was served just an hour after takeoff. I ordered the Spanish-style frittata with red cheddar sauce.

British Airways business class breakfast — main

The meal was good, though portions weren’t exactly huge. I imagine I could have asked for more, but I wasn’t actually hungry after flying so much with limited exercise.

Furthermore, the crew was also very good. They really performed the service like clockwork. They were both professional and personable.

After breakfast I tried to get some work done. I got lucky in that I was on one of British Airways’ 747s with Wi-Fi (most of the 747s flying between New York and London have it), and you can read all about Wi-Fi on British Airways in this post.

While there are several pricing options, I chose the “stream” option for the entire flight, which is the fastest Wi-Fi. That cost 23.99GBP.

It was so great to be able to stay connected on British Airways for the first time.

British Airways wifi

I spent most of the flight working, and about an hour after breakfast ordered a cup of coffee, which was served on a cute tray.

British Airways business class coffee

I then worked a bit more, and about halfway through the flight was feeling peckish. At this point I realized that British Airways has a small self serve bar on the lower deck right by the stairs to the upper deck, so I checked that out. This had a bunch of packaged snacks, drinks, and also a fridge that had further snacks.

British Airways business class snacks

They had some tasty yogurt with berries and nuts, so I grabbed that and took it to my seat.

British Airways business class snack

I also ordered some tea, and the flight attendant brought me a pack of cookies to go along with it.

British Airways business class tea

About 75 minutes before landing, as we were over Maine, the pre-landing snack service started.

Progress to New York

Progress to New York

British Airways serves afternoon tea on all of their London to New York flights. Personally I would have hoped they’d serve a more substantial meal on a flight where the first meal is breakfast, but that’s not the case.

The pre-arrival menu read as follows:

Stupidly I ordered the ploughman’s, not fully knowing what it was. While well presented, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

British Airways pre-arrival snack

I asked if I could also have a scone, and the flight attendant gladly obliged.

British Airways pre-arrival snack

At around 11:20AM the captain announced we were near Boston and would be landing in about 40 minutes. Sure enough, we began our descent about 10 minutes later, and about 20 minutes later the captain turned on the seatbelt sign.

View approaching New York

We touched down in New York at 12PM. While the landing was smooth, it was really gusty on approach, so it felt like the pilots were wrestling the plane down.

Our taxi to Terminal 7 took a while, and we ended up arriving at our gate at 12:15PM, as we had to be towed in. We parked next to an Aerolineas Argentinas A330.

Aerolineas Argentinas A330

After pulling into the gate the captain announced over the PA “we’re 15 minutes early, hooray. Cheerio.”

I headed through Global Entry. Terminal 7 only has a few kiosks, and I feel like more people on that flight had Global Entry than not, so there was about a 10 minute wait to even use a kiosk. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that. From there I headed to Terminal 8 to catch my (delayed) flight on American.

British Airways Club World 747 bottom line

This was a really solid flight on British Airways. As before, the upper deck of the 747 is a real treat. On top of that, British Airways’ soft product has improved immensely.

This flight had the added bonus of having the new entertainment screens, as well as wifi, which made the flight even better.

The DO & CO food quality was excellent, though the sheer quantity of food they serve on these breakfast flights isn’t huge, especially since they offer afternoon tea, rather than lunch, before landing.

This crew was also top notch — they were friendly and polished.

You sure could say that British Airways grew on me a lot over the course of this journey.

  1. I’m surprised that you fly ba crap. Seats like this are not business class for me. Thiey are from another era and are the worst in the market. I’d even prefer Fer recliners on Icelandair instead of having to jump over passes ngers or beeing jumped on. Glad they have improved catering as it was not edible.

  2. Please review an Aerolineas Argentinas flight. You did so well on that Angolan flight, I’m sure you could do it. The more random the airline that you fly but I will probably never actually fly means I will just want to read your blog more. It sounds crazy but I think I am speaking for a certain portion of your audience that loves you so much.

  3. I wonder what the other meal options for pre-landing were ? You seem to miss that page from the “breakfeast” menu. Would you be able to challenge flight attendants for another meal given the portions are tiny and lastly not your gusto ?

  4. I think 23.99GBP is a fair price that it can deliver speed that can at least browse, it is free or cheap, everyone is buying it and it will take ages to load an image, just look at CZ’s wifi, its free for F,C and for the first 100Y’s to sign up. It is as slow as a turtle. I would rather pay something like that to work.

  5. BA is far from perfect but it is possible to still have a good experience. I love the very private window seats.

  6. You should’ve gone to the Galleries in T5B. Best lounge in T5. I would happily sit there instead of the Concorde Room.

  7. Dave just beat me too it – most BA frequent flyers rave about the lounge in T5B as it’s much quieter than the lounges in the main building.

  8. Oh, and it is me but is the Aerolineas Argentinas livery pretty much the BMI British Midland livery from the early 2000s?

    On that note, I really miss BM, I used to use them a lot DUB-LHR, as they were so much better than Aer Lingus.

  9. Jesus, that looks to be the worst seat-configuration that exists in business class… Who ever though that this design was a good idea?

  10. The even newer IFE in the 787s has a slightly bigger screen – I imagine it’s close to the largest you could fit and still have it swing back into the seat housing.

    I’m fascinated to see what the new CW seat will be like on the new A350s arriving in July. This current CW seat was absolutely pioneering – all the teenagers commenting above on how it’s The Worst Seat in the World are clearly clueless. BA converted its entire long haul fleet to consistent standards, all with lay-flat beds – something American, for example, only managed earlier this year, decades after BA.

    Is it cutting edge? Hell no. It’s fallen behind best practise, and isn’t in the same league as, say, Qatar’s reverse herringbones, let alone Qsuites. But a window seat next to a bulkhead (so giving direct aisle access) is, for me, one of the better ways of travelling J – far preferable to Virgin Atlantic’s herringbones, to take one competitor.

    Over the last few months, the upgrade to the (previously unacceptable) food quality has been remarkable. Some breakfast menus have offered kedgeree, which is so utterly English (and completely lovely) that the memory is still making me smile.

  11. Why on earth order something without asking what it was?

    Why not just ask what it included. The crew aren’t going to judge you if you ask. Whereas we are judging you for not asking!

    I guess you’d be happier if they called it something like ‘tapas plate’

  12. Flew the same CW seat but on a 777 (8 abreast). Got lucky and with a rear facing middle seat but no one next to me. While 8 abreast doesn’t seem impressive the seat itself didn’t feel tight and in bed mode as well as upright was extremely plush and comfortable. Once again got lucky with the empty seat next to me but was very impressed after all the negative reviews online.

  13. “Sitting backwards on the upper deck is always an interesting experience.” Interesting good or bad? Never been on the top deck and I’d like to give it a try but I’m a nervous flyer so don’t like anything that feels strange on board lol. That said, I actually prefer the backward facing seats to forward facing in the main cabin.

  14. Some don’t like BA’s business class but I love the window seat. It is almost a private cabin. I have only had the chance to fly it on two flights but will never forget those flights.

  15. Good to see BA improving in business class, although the seat itself still seems weak, although better on the upper deck. (I can’t stand sitting facing backward, though.) Soft product looks vastly improved.

    They may not be in line with the top-tier ME or Asian airlines yet, but for TATL they look competitive again.

  16. I’ll always have a soft spot for Club World as my addiction to premium travel started on my first international flight in 2005 when I received an op-up from WT+ to CW from IAD. Flew CW on mileage upgrades 6 more times in the next 4 years and even got to experience one of the first flights with the current version of the seat in 2007. Usually got 62 or 64 seats which agreed are excellent. The bed is definitely narrow and can be a bit wobbly but good to see soft product improvements and the fact that it’s being upgraded seats soon.

    Will be sad to see the 747 eventually disappear as it’s truly special flying the UD.

  17. Why did you have to go through security at T5?

    Surely there is a bus transfer air-side at LHR (which is almost all international flights). If you are only in transit though the UK then you don’t have to go through UK immigration or security, unlike the ridiculous situation when you transfer through a US airport.

  18. @ Tom — You do have to go through security when transferring. It’s airside in the sense that you don’t have to go through immigration, but you do go through security.

  19. It’s no more 8 abreast than reverse herringbone or staggered seating. Yes it’s lacking direct aisle access but it’s one of the best sleeping surfaces in business. The window seats on ba are some of my favourites in the sky, only the APEX suite beats it IMO.

  20. @Lucky – how did you *know* you were departing from B pier and that it was safe to proceed there? My experience at LHR is that departure gate information isn’t available until close to boarding time. Isn’t it a massive ordeal to come back in the piers if you go too far?

  21. I’ve been disappointed in BA First twice this year and just finished a flight from Europe to Sydney in Qatar’s Qsuites (first leg was A330, though).

    I’ve thought positive about BA’s recent changes but even after reading this review, I’m amazed how behind BA is. I thought that BA First was a great business class product — well, it’s more like superb Premium Economy really.

    After a few decades, not planning to do any extra miles to renew my BA status either.

  22. Why didn’t you visit the T5B lounge? Always lovely and quiet, beats sitting at the gate!

    @jak US flights invariably depart from T5B or T5C, so as good to head over to the T5B lounge.

    I’m really going to miss 747 UD – had equipment changes to 777 my last few flights and such a disappointment in comparison. Still find it a comfy seat with superb legroom – no foot cubby coffin!

  23. When BA brought out the flat beds on the 747 it was revolutionary. We have always flown the UD and row 62 when available. Thanks for the review – it revives wonderful memories.

    Part of our trip was always on a 777 – which paled terribly when compared to UD of the 747.

    Nostalgia time in two weeks – I hope – as we fly Qantas 747 UD (same as 62) YVR to SYD. Qantas has a good reputation but over the years we have only flown a short hop SYD-AKL so have nothing to compare it to. Will be taking 5 domestic and short international flight on QR over the next 3 months so will have lots more information. Ending up on EK and CX to round things off.

  24. Hey lucky, first time comment here. I noticed Gate Gourmet were catering the flight (assume that was your actual aircraft in the photo?) which seems odd as it’s a Do&Co catered flight!

    Good review. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Lucky, or anyone?
    Yes or No: Do those who occupy window seats have to jump over those in isle seats who have extended their seat/bed?

  26. @mark2, you do have a few seats where you do not have to jump over someone, on 747 UD those are 62 and 64 for instance. Have had one on a 787 flight, but those seats are much worse with less storage space etc., and feels narrower, not sure if they are. I think there is only one gate at T5A that can take a 747, hence will be B or C gates, I have only been on a N.Y. flight from B gates.

  27. Firstly, a big well done to BA for serving a proper pork sausage at breakfast rather than one of those awful chicken ones. Secondly, the ploughman’s dish looked perfectly good to me.

  28. @Mark2
    The last row of seats in every J cabin (747, 777 – all of them) gives you a window seat with direct aisle access – no jumping over anyone. The design of the seat means it’s very private, and relatively spacious – at least at the foot end. I really like those seats. They’re certainly not Qsuites (what else is?), but they’re a very nice way to travel.

    I remember having thoughts about sitting in a rearward-facing seat but, in truth, for the vast majority of the flight it makes absolutely no difference. For take-off it is slightly less comfortable, but for landing it is slightly better. A ot of military passenger aircraft have all seats facing rearwards – in a crash it is apparently safer (or, maybe, slightly more survivable), another reason why F/A seats all face rear (as well as giving them a view of passengers misbehaving).

    Pretty much every airport I have used requires passengers transferring from one international flight to another to go through security screening (maybe that’s a requirement only for flights to/from North America and EU, etc?), but almost nowhere requires immigration clearance – except notably the US. I do everything I can to avoid transferring in the US as a result, even if it means odd-looking routes (eg, from Buenos Aires to Tokyo via, er, Auckland).

  29. @The nice Paul

    Many EU countries and the US/TSA have a security agreement; if you transit in USA-FRA/MUC/ZRH-EU or back for example, there is no need to clear security in FRA/MUC/ZRH. There are probably other examples. LHR is just poorly designed and the British have a security fetish like the USA.

  30. I will get my first 747 experience in January. I paid the extra money to get seat 62a outbound and 64k return. Phl-lhr. I can hardly wait. It’s something I always dreamed of.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *